A young man from Hong Kong was moved by Pope Francis’ off-the-cuff remarks during the opening celebration of the 6th Asian Youth Day, stating that the pontiff spoke to them “heart-to-heart.”
“For the things that the Pope said (in Italian) I couldn’t hear clearly,” but understood that he “would like to talk heart to heart without following the speech. I was so touched by this because I felt that the Pope would like to talk much more” than time allowed, Giovanni Pan told CNA Aug. 15.
“Another point is the moment when we said the Our Father, the Lord’s Prayer,” he explained, referring to the moment when Pope Francis and the thousands of Asian youth present joined hands and prayed the traditional prayer together.
“From the stage I looked at the place where the Chinese and people from Hong Kong were, and I saw that many of them were crying. So I was so touched and I also cried.”
Pan, 33, was one of three youths who spoke during the Asian Youth Day event, giving his testimony and asking questions to Pope Francis, as well as sharing his concerns about the world and modern society.
Reflecting on the theme “Asian Youth! Wake up! The glory of the martyrs shines on you,” the event is one of the key motivations for Pope Francis’ Aug. 14 – 18 visit to South Korea.
Taking place the second of his five day trip, the event was held at the Solmoe Shrine, which sits just south of the country’s capital, Seoul, and is the birthplace of the first Korean-born priest, St. Andrew Kim Taegon, who was martyred in the 1800s.
In his speech during the youth event Pan jested about his Italian name, saying to the Roman “Me chiamo Giovanni,” which means “My name is Giovanni,” and ended by thanking the Pope in Italian, saying “Grazie.” He also asked the Pope how Hong Kong can host a future World Youth Day.
After finishing their speeches, the three youth had the opportunity to greet Pope Francis. Walking to the back of the stage where he was seated, they each knelt down and kissed his papal ring.
“When I knelt down before the Pope he touched my hand. He asked me a question, and the translation of a word,” Pan told journalists in an Aug. 15 press briefing, stating that “I actually didn't hear very clearly because it was so noisy at that time, so I just responded ‘yes.’”
“Then the Pope talked to me in English. He told me to pray for him, and said that he would pray for the Church in China.”
Referring to the moment when he put a scarf made for the Asian Youth Day around the Bishop of Rome’s neck, Pan explained that “I kissed his ring and then I took off this ribbon, and at that time the Pope himself bowed his head a little bit, so I put it on his neck.”
“When I shook hands with him,” after, “I felt that his hand was so soft, so warm, just like the hand of my grandfather.”
Going on, the youth described watching the event from his place on the stage, telling journalists that “Maybe I can share something I saw onstage that you didn't notice.”
“The first thing is that the Pope didn’t want to follow the written script, because he wanted to talk heart to heart,” he noted.
“What does heart to heart mean? When we three talked he used a pen to write some notes. Then when the Pope talked in Italian, I noticed that his finger always followed the notes he made, so it means he was answering our questions, even if he didn't answer them specifically.”
After Pope Francis returned to his seat, Pan observed how he apologized to the two young girls who also gave speeches “because he felt so sorry that he confused their names, so he wanted to say sorry to them.”
Particularly impactful for Pan were the Pope’s comments about North and South Korea, who he referred to as “one family” who speaks the same language.
“There is only one Korea, but this family is divided,” the pontiff stated, explaining that “Your brothers and sisters in North Korea are speaking the same language, and that gives me hope for the future of the human family.”
Explaining how the event was an important moment in his life, Pan told CNA that he now plans to “continue to pray, and I will follow what the Pope said.”
“Just follow, and don’t be afraid. Whatever you want to get, just ask and just try it, just try it. For now this is me, this is Giovanni.”