Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is the only Canadian among a group of roughly 30 international delegates invited to meet with Pope Francis to discuss climate change at the Vatican later this month. Mr. Robertson said this week that he did not apply for the position nor did he request to be part of the delegation. The mayor says he was essentially cold-called.
Only the Pontiff and the Mayor know what took place during the call, but it may have sounded something like this:
Mayor Robertson: (Picking up phone) Gregor here …
Accented Male Voice: Please hold for His Holiness sir …
Robertson: Ha. Ha. Very funny, Meggs. What's up?
Pope Francis: Mayor Robertson … may I call you Gregor? It's Pope Francis calling from Vatican City …
Robertson: Look, Geoff, I've got a meeting with Tzeporah Berman in, like, three minutes … (He glances down at call display and notices the country code 379)
Pope Francis: This is not Geoff Meggs, Gregor, although I do admire his work on the viaducts much. He's right, I hate the things. This is Pope Francis, leader of the Catholic Church … the pontiff.
Robertson: Sheesh, Your uh … Holiness, forgive me – I thought it was a colleague pranking me again.
Pope Francis: Yes, that Geoff Meggs; he is quite a card. Look Gregor, I'll get right to the point: I've been watching your work there in Vancouver – your Greenest City Action Plan, your bike lanes, your vegetable gardens and farmers markets, and I must say I'm very impressed. Yours is the decisive action I talked about in my encyclical. Did you catch it by the way?
Robertson: Uh, not the whole thing; some of it though. It was …
Pope Francis: Don't lie to the Pope, Gregor. I'll send you an MP3. Anyhow, I'm getting a few people together here at the Vatican later this month to talk about climate change and the impact on the world's most disadvantaged people and I was thinking that you would be a valuable contribution …
Robertson: You mean as part of a Canadian delegation?
Pope Francis: No, just you. Look, I'll be honest, just between you and me, I met with your Prime Minister last month. I'm not a fan. I tried talking climate change to him. Let's just say it did not go well.
Robertson: Well, gosh, I'm flattered, but I'm only a mayor, Your Holiness. I don't exactly have a lot of pull around here. I mean, jeez, I couldn't even get half the people in Vancouver to agree to a modest tax increase to pay for transit. And I mean Vancouver – forget about the suburbs. Even after spending $6-million …
Pope Francis: Oh yes, the plebiscite. That was unfortunate. It's too bad it turned into a referendum about TransLink. Damn that Jordan Bateman. Excuse my language.
Robertson: Wow, you're really on top of what's going on here in the Lower Mainland.
Pope Francis: I try to keep up. We sometimes watch your council meetings online. They're very entertaining. That George Affleck cracks me up.
Robertson: As for the disadvantaged, Your Holiness, I promised to end street homelessness a few years ago but heck, that is one tough nut to crack, let me tell you. The numbers just aren't moving.
Pope Francis: Tell me about it, my friend. You forget where I'm from. But perhaps you should make more modest promises.
Robertson: That's another thing. I feel like I'm never doing enough, you know? Like on the Greenest City thing. I mean, can you be too green?
Pope Francis: Anything else? Impure thoughts? Have you taken the Lord's name in vain? Coveted anything lately?
Pope Francis: I'm just messing with you, Gregor. This is starting to sound like a confession.
Robertson: Well, I did drop a pretty nasty F-bomb like, five years ago. I rode transit once without paying. Then there's …
Pope Francis: Whatever! So are you coming or not?
Robertson: I dunno. Flying to Rome, huh? That's a lot of carbon offsets …
Pope Francis: Look kid, you can't take it all so seriously. Also, in case you missed it, this is The Pope calling …
Robertson: Right. Okie-dokie. I guess we'll see you later this month. Thanks Your uh, Your Holiness. Thanks for the call. So cool.
Pope Francis: You're welcome. God bless.
Gregor: Uh, yeah, you too.
Pope: (Hanging up phone) Oy.
Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One, 88.1 FM and 690 AM in Vancouver.