VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis phoned a noted Italian theologian to ask him for a “favor” to help him and Vatican officials prepare for Easter by leading an annual Lenten retreat, the theologian said. The pope calling his cellphone caught Servite Father Ermes Ronchi by surprise, he said, and “my first reaction was trepidation, excitement. When he told me that he had a favor to ask me, I didn’t hesitate and answered, ‘But of course, go ahead, whatever you need …,’” the priest told his local newspaper, Messaggero Veneto, Jan. 12. But when the pope told the priest he wanted him to organize and lead a weeklong series of “spiritual exercises” for the pope and top Roman Curia officials, the priest said, “I tried to stall and I told him that I wasn’t sure I was the right person or good enough for the assignment he was offering me.” He said the pope cut right to the chase and said, “So, we’re starting Sunday, March 6,” but then the pope asked the priest if he wanted “to check your calendar first” to make sure he wasn’t already busy. At that point, Father Ronchi said he didn’t need to check his schedule and accepted the pope’s offer.