Pope Francis had lunch on Friday with twelve participants of World Youth Day from different countries. After the unique one-on-one experience with the Holy Father, many of the participants said that they came away with an increasing sense of responsibility for and a desire to help those in need. Marcelo Galiano, from the Diocese of Parana in Argentina said that he “still could not believe what happened” and that he feels more connected to his faith than ever before. “I had already been working for the Church, but this gives me a bigger push to be more firm in my faith,” Galiano told Catholic News Agency. Galiano said that while he comes from Argentina, he works as a therapist in Rio de Janeiro specializing in treating those with autism.
“What has changed in my life is that now I have more responsibility because he spoke with us with authority, as a pastor and as a father,” Galiano said about the Pope. “We spoke a bit about everything and when he gave us our gift at the end, a rosary, I gave him a big hug.”
Paula Garcia, who came from Columbia and was asked to help translate for some of the young people and for the Holy Father because she is fluent in both Spanish and English, said “the Pope really transmits God,” and she said that Francis posed difficult questions to the young people that made them think. The Pope asked: “why are you having lunch with the Pope when others are having lunch in slums?” Garcia said that the question made many of the youth burst into tears. “He was telling us ‘God loves you a lot’ through the questions he asked us.
He didn’t tell us directly that, but he made us reflect,” said Garcia. “We were all nervous in the beginning because we didn’t know what we were going to talk about with him, but he just came and it was very normal.” The Holy Father told his lunch guests that he wasn’t asking them to do great things for the poor, but small things with great love. “Listening to him was reaffirming everything I had been learning spiritually up until now in my life,” shared Garcia, “It was a very impressive atmosphere and I know we are all very moved.”
“I want to live now more profoundly the things that he said to us during the meeting,” Danielle Danowsky, who came to Rio from Michigan, told Catholic News Agency, “He mentioned how we are so fortunate with our health and with what he had and that we should care for the needy.”
Thomson Philip, of New Zealand, said he could not believe that he was going to have lunch with the Pope. “When I received the email inviting me to this lunch, I was so shocked I almost fainted,” shared Philip. The Holy See asked that participants in the lunch keep their invitations secret until the event, so Philip did not even tell his parents. “He asked each one of us to spread the hope of Christ among the young people,” Philip said.
The Pope also made time in his schedule to visit some juvenile detainees with whom he had been corresponding on Friday.