Pope gets shoe shine on Cuba-bound plane

Pope Francis wears a Sombrero hat he received as a gift by a Mexican journalist aboard of the airplane to Havana, February 12, 2016. REUTERS/Alessandro Di Meo/Pool/Files

ONBOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) - A wealthy Mexican-American broadcaster, who shined shoes as a boy to help his single mother, gave Pope Francis’s shoes a quick polish on the papal plane on Friday as a tribute to people struggling to feed their families.

Noel Diaz, 59, told the pope of his rags-to-riches story when the pontiff came to the back section of the plane to greet journalists as it was flying to Cuba.

He told the pope he had shined shoes as a small boy in the Mexican border city of Tijuana to save money to buy a new shirt and trousers for his first communion, when he and his mother lived in extreme poverty.

“I was only seven years old. My mother told me we couldn’t afford the clothes. I shined shoes for the next five days to make the money,” he told the pope.

“I asked the pope: ‘Can I shine your shoes in honor of all those people out there who really work hard every day to put bread on the table?’” Diaz later told reporters.

Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Louise Ireland