Pope Francis kisses his "mini-me" to kick off Carnival

In this picture provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, 19-month-old Daniele De Sanctis, dressed up as a pope, is handed to Pope Francis as he is driven through the crowd during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Feb. 26, 2014.  AP/L'Osservatore Romano

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis has a mini-me.

Daniele De Sanctis, 19 months, made a star turn Wednesday as he showed off this year's must-have Carnival costume at the pope's general audience: white cassock and cape, white skullcap and even a miniature pectoral cross.

 

 Daniele wailed as he was hoisted up to receive a papal kiss as Francis drove by. But he seemed perfectly happy romping through the closed-off sections of St. Peter's Square, with his papal outfit getting him VIP treatment from the Swiss Guards.

His mother, Paola Ciabattini, said one of Daniele's grandmothers had made the costume, inspired after the boy used a hand towel as a cape after washing his hands.

"It was a gesture of love toward the Holy Father," Ciabattini told The Associated Press. "We certainly didn't intend to make fun of him or the church in any way."

During Carnival in Italy, children often go out after school and spend their weekends dressed up in pirate, princess - and now pope - costumes. Carnival, also known as mardi gras, marks the period before the church's solemn Lenten season begins.

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