By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - He's nowhere near Santa Claus yet, but Pope Francis gets so much mail that the tiny office that deals with it is swamped and working overtime.
"Mostly, they are requests for comfort or prayers," Monsignor Giuliano Gallorini, the head of the office, told Vatican Television (CTV).
The office gets about 30 sacks, or about 6,000 letters a week, which would make a yearly total of more than 300,000. The U.S. Postal Service says it gets millions of letters addressed to Santa Claus each year.
Gallorini and a staff of three women, including one nun, work in a small, cramped room where cardboard boxes labeled by language are strewn on the floor and on desks.
"They are signs of the difficult times in which we live. Many of them are about difficulties, above all illnesses. They ask for prayers for illnesses. They describe their difficult economic situations," Gallorini said.
The most urgent and personal letters are passed to the pope's two private priest-secretaries to give to him. "These are the ones that are a little more delicate, that have to do with questions of conscience," Gallorini said.
Letters about economic difficulties are sent to local Catholic charities to decide how the people can be helped.
The pope tweets messages on Twitter but he does not follow anyone. He does not have an email account and likes to receive what one senior aide called "old-fashioned letters".
(Reporting By Philip Pullella)