Reports said that Pope Francis sneaks out at night from Vatican, not wearing his papal vestments but disguised as an ordinary priest, to give alms to the poor and homeless.
Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, considered the almoner of the pope, virtually confirmed the speculations that the former archbishop of Buenos Aires joins him in nightly trips into Rome for the discreet works of charity.
Reuters A homeless man sits on the pavement in central London.
The Huffington Post also quotes Swiss guards confirming the rumour of his nocturnal habit.
Archbishop Krajewski said, quoted by Huffington Post, "When I say to him 'I'm going out into the city this evening', there's the constant risk that he will come with me." However, he only gave a smile and evaded giving a direct answer when media confirmed with him if the pontiff joins the archbishop in his nightly mission.
For the pope, who recently hugged and kissed a severely disfigured man, the secret night trips are merely a continuation of a tradition he did in Argentina when he was still known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, when he sneaked out in the evening to share food with the homeless, sit with them on the street and eat with them to show they were loved.
Other past popes also sneaked out in the cover of darkness for different reasons. For Pope John XIII, it was to enjoy Rome's nocturnal beauty, while for Pope Pius XII, it was to help smuggle Jews in Rome to safety during World War II, by dressing as a Franciscan monk.
Pope Francis's predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, reportedly also once went out unnoticed at night, but went to an unannounced visit to an art exhibit.
The story adds to the many humble characteristics of the pope that has endeared him both to Catholics and non-Catholics, resulting in a 20 per cent rise in church attendance in Britain. These acts include eschewing living in a papal palace, taking public transportation, cooking his own meals, rejecting the use of luxury cars, posing in a selfie with young pilgrims and giving a Swiss guard a chair and snacks while on duty.