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What's in the pope's hand luggage?

Pope Francis holds his personal bag as he boards a plane at Fiumicino airport in Rome on July 22, 2013. Giampiero Sposito / Reuters

Update, July 29: The mystery is solved! In a wide-ranging press conference on board the plane carrying him back from Brazil, Pope Francis revealed that his bag held only his books and a razor. "The keys to the atomic bomb weren't in it," the pope joked, according to The Associated Press.

Original story, July 22: Pope Francis left Rome for Brazil on Monday, making his first trip abroad since he was elected in March as the first non-European pontiff in 13 centuries.

His Alitalia flight took off from Fiumicino airport for Rio de Janeiro, where he is due to preside over World Youth Day festivities.

Giampiero Sposito / Reuters

As the pope walked up the stairs to the aircraft, it was his hand luggage — a slightly worn-looking black leather bag — that drew the attention of photographers, as well as garnering comments from his followers on Twitter.

According to seasoned Vatican-watchers, Francis was breaking new ground with this small gesture: the Catholic News Agency reported that "no Pope in recent memory has carried his own bag." 

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