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If there's anything that Pope Benedict XVI loves more than cats, it must be the adorable, collared babies of big exotic cats, because we've never seen the man happier than he was petting a pair of lion cubs at the Vatican on Saturday.

The office of the Pope invited different circus performers to set up a big top tent in St. Peter's square on Saturday. The idea was so the Pope could encourage them to keep praying despite constantly being on the road and not having a stable home, but the highlight of the afternoon was definitely the cats. Did you not know the Pope loves cats? It's well documented, apparently. 

The Pope has trouble walking, so it's a pretty big deal that he got out of his chair to greet the adorable cubs. It's just a shame this little guy didn't share the Pope's appreciation for his cuteness. 

See, he wasn't nearly as enthused for the acrobats and gymnasts who performed. But, look, clapping! He recognizes how much it must suck to have two kids putting all their weight on your thighs. It's strange the two strongest looking guys got the smallest kid to stand on them. they must've drawn straws. 

Benedict is amazed by simple things, like cats, and juggling. He stared intently at this guy, though it's not clear why. We'd like to believe it's because he was about to start lighting things on fire. 

This poor clown got caught looking star struck in front of the Pope. Hopefully he was able to get it together by the time he performed. He probably regrets putting the lion all the way on the back of his funny hat. Never take sartorial advice from the bearded lady. 

The Pope seems like he would pretty comfortable around clowns, considering he spends his days surrounded by these guys. Amazingly, they're not circus performers, despite looking like they're a big red nose and a squirt-gun flower away from fitting in with the performers. This is one of the Pope's Swiss Guards, strolling the hall ways and dreaming of the days when the Pope laughed at his jokes instead. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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