Cat-loving Pope Benedict XVI has been given a kitten to keep him company while he relaxes and plays piano ahead World Youth Day in Australia, church insiders told AFP on Monday.
The pontiff, an avid feline fan whose home in Germany is reportedly filled with the animals and is guarded by a cat statue, was given an 11-month-old tabby named Bella by his followers.
"Some of the faithful brought Bella into the Pope's retreat to keep him company while he plays the piano," a World Youth Day source who declined to be identified said.
"He is well known for his love of cats and the piano and we wanted to make him feel at home," the source added.
The Pope, who flew into Sydney on Sunday ahead of the start of World Youth Day celebrations, was holed up in an Opus Dei retreat outside Sydney where he is taking a four-day holiday following his 20-hour flight from Rome.
Bella, a tabby with thick grey fur, is "very playful", a "little bit camera shy and loves cat food," sources said.
The pontiff, a music lover who enjoys playing Mozart, will have access to a baby grand piano at his retreat in Kenthurst, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the centre of Australia's biggest city.
He will also have access to a tennis court in the wooded property, but is unlikely to take advantage of that facility and is expected instead to keep to his routine of daily strolls, sources said.
World Youth Day officially starts Tuesday with a huge Mass to be conducted by Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell. The Pope will join the celebrations on Thursday when he will arrive in Sydney harbour in a "boat-a-cade."
Some 125,000 pilgrims from around the world are expected to attend World Youth Day, while up to 500,000 are tipped to be present at the Pope's final mass on Sunday.