What 60 Minutes gave the pope

Pope Francis isn't the easiest man to buy for, but Scott Pelley decided to offer him a gift with a very personal meaning behind it

At the end of this week's 60 Minutes story about Pope Francis, correspondent Scott Pelley is among thousands of people amassed in St. Peter's Square during one of the pope's weekly appearances in the Vatican. After a few words with Pope Francis, Pelley handed him a leather-bound book. Curious viewers will no doubt wonder what it was.

"That was a personal favorite of mine," Pelley told Overtime Editor Ann Silvio. "John Steinbeck's 'The Grapes of Wrath.'"


The book has always resonated with him, Pelley explained, because, like the Joad family in the novel, his grandparents were Okies who survived the 1930s Dust Bowl. But the gift's meaning wasn't purely personal.

"It's a parable about every refugee and every time across the ages," Pelley said. "It doesn't matter if it's a refugee family running from the genocide in Sudan or a refugee family running from the civil war in Syria."

It's a subject Pope Francis is keenly concerned about, and one that haunts Pelley as well. "Because of the work we do at 60 Minutes, I have witnessed refugee emergencies all around the world," Pelley said. "I mean, imagine having your family and you lose everything and suddenly you're on the highway and you're walking. That has always tugged at my heart."

It's not clear, of course, if the pope will ever actually read the book, which the 60 Minutes team found in Italian and had bound in red leather. After receiving it graciously, he handed it off, like all gifts, to one of his ushers. "I hope he had an opportunity to look at it," Pelley said. "But of course, he's the pope. He has a lot of things on his mind."

Regardless, the moment in which the pope briefly touched Pelley's hand and blessed him was a powerful one. "Everyone comes into St. Peter's Square with their own individual hopes and dreams and burdens and regrets and fears," he said, noting that 15 million people had come to the see the pope over the past two years.

"I think that when they touch the pope and the pope blesses them, that 78-year-old man lifts those things from their shoulders," Pelley said. "And gives them hope."

This Overtime video was produced by Ann Silvio and Will Croxton.