PHILADELPHIA -- One of the journalists in the Vatican press corps has a special relationship with Pope Francis: He baptized her two children.

Elisabetta Pique met Jorge Bergoglio in 2001 when he was the archbishop of Buenos Aires and unknown to most of the world.

She had arrived in Rome as a correspondent for the Argentine newspaper La Nacion and her editors told her to try to interview Bergoglio when he visited there.

StoryPope speaks of joys, struggles of family life at festivalSee alsoComplete coverageSee alsoPope's visit: Follow along at News 12

It was no easy task. "He was famous for not giving interviews," Pique said.

She approached him anyway, meeting him at the residence where he always stayed when in Rome (and where he famously went to pay his bill after the 2013 conclave that elected him).

"He was very timid, very shy," Pique recalled.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

She tried to break the ice by saying she rarely covered the church.

Three days later her phone rang -- it was Bergoglio, calling to thank her for the interview.

"It was the only person in my life who called me to say thank you," Pique said.

Get the Newsday Now newsletter!

The best of Newsday every day in your inbox.

Each time he came to Rome after that, they would meet and she would interview him.

During the 2005 conclave to elect the next pope after John Paul II died, Bergoglio -- by then a cardinal -- put his hand on a pregnant Pique to bless her first baby.

When Juan Pablo was born, it seemed natural to have Bergoglio baptize him.

Two years later, when Carolina was born, Bergoglio baptized her, too.

Pique is married to Gerard O'Connell, who is the Rome correspondent for America magazine, which covers Catholicism.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Pique said had a strong sense Bergoglio would be elected pope in 2013. The morning after he was, at 9 a.m., her phone rang.

She almost didn't answer -- the caller ID said "unknown" and she was receiving so many requests for interviews she was overwhelmed. But she picked it up -- it was Pope Francis, just checking in.

Pique later that year published a biography called "Francis: Life and Revolution."

She says that although Bergoglio hasn't changed a lot as Pope Francis, her own life has been impacted. After his election, she had to visit Carolina's school.

"I had to tell the teacher if she tells you she knows the pope, she's not crazy," Pique said.