As the Cardinals assembled in the Vatican Dining Room for the traditional Papal Breakfast hosted by the newly-elected pontiff at the start of each reign, they found him already seated at the head of the table, sipping from a cup of coffee and finishing up his crossword puzzle.

“Welcome, my brothers!” Said Pope Francis, nodding to them from his seat.

“Good morning, Your Holiness,” they smiled almost in unison.

“Please, please,” said the Pope, “I’m not a king. You just call me Pope Frank, eh? It’s a new day for the Church and we’re going to be open and honest with each other from now on, hmm? I intend to be frank with you, so I be Pope Frank to you, huh?”

“Oh,” they smiled, nodding, laughing lightly, commenting amongst themselves at his good humor and friendliness.

“An amusing play on words,” said Cardinal Browning.

“And to show our newfound informality and austerity, please help yourselves to a simple buffet of scrambled eggs, toast, and fried potatoes. The youngsters will be around with coffee, tea and orange juice at your pleasure,” he said, “but that’s the only pleasure!...”

“Oh, my,” they laughed good-naturedly at his earthy sense of humor, “that is informal,” whispered one, “and austere,” said another as they formed lines at the side tables, grabbing plates and silverware.

When they were seated and Pope Frank had offered the benediction, they began to eat and to quietly chat amongst themselves.

“Excuse me, my brothers,” said the pope, “I hate to interrupt, but I’m stuck on the last word of this crossword puzzle. They’re my addiction!” he laughed, and they laughed along with him. “The word fits going across, but not down. Does anyone know a four-letter word that refers to a woman in a position of authority? It’s blank, u, n, t.”

An abrupt silence suddenly descended upon the room as some of the Cardinals earnestly searched their brains for the answer whilest others turned dead white and traded shockingly embarrassed stares and averted gazes. Finally, Cardinal Smuts cleared his throat and raised his hand and said, “I believe I know the answer to that one, Pope Frank.”

The room felt almost devoid of oxygen as the assemblage awaited Cardinal Smuts’ response. “A four-letter word for a woman in a position of authority with a blank, u, n, t, would be ‘aunt.’”

“Aunt!” Pope Frank laughed, “of course! A-u-n-t. Aunt!"

“Oh,” a collective sigh swept the room, followed immediately thereafter with the quiet titters of relieved laughter.

"Now," the pope cleared his throat and asked somewhat sheepishly, "who's got an eraser?”


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