A young altar server and his sister who presented flowers to Pope Francis during the welcoming ceremony for his arrival to South Korea reveal that they could hardly contain their excitement.
“It was very glorious. I thought ‘this is the last time to meet the Pope, and this is the first time.’ So I was very happy,” Choi Woo-jin told CNA Aug. 14.
Choi, who is in the 6th grade, was selected along with his little sister, Choi Seung-won, who is in the 2nd grade, to deliver a bouquet of flowers and hand written letters to Pope Francis upon his 10:30a.m. arrival to Seoul, South Korea Aug. 14.
When they presented the bouquet to the pontiff, Choi explained that Pope Francis “told me ‘thank you,’ and ‘you’re very friendly.’ And he said ‘I love you.’”
Choi, an altar boy at his home parish and president at his school, explained that it was because of his leadership and involvement that he was selected to deliver the flowers.
He said that he was "very surprised” when he found out, and “couldn’t sleep that night or last night.”
Sharing his sentiments, Choi’s sister Seung-won also said that she was “nervous” when delivering the flowers to the Pope. “I wanted to say I love you, but my mom said I have to say ‘welcome Papa,’ so I told him 'welcome,'” she said.
During the arrival ceremony for his Aug. 14 – 18 apostolic voyage to Korea, Pope Francis was also greeted the apostolic nuncio to Korea, H.E. Msgr. Osvaldo Padilla, the protocol leader of Korean presidential palace and Korean president Park Geun-hae.
President Park’s presence was “a particular sign of affection” since heads of state do not usually meet a Pope at the airport, but rather inside their presidential palace, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said in an Aug. 14 press briefing.
After having a brief conversation with the president, the Roman Pontiff received the bouquet of flowers and hand-written letters from Choi Woo-jin and his sister before greeting the rest of the welcoming group, which included the families of victims of the Seuol ferry incident earlier this spring.
Others lay representatives of the Korean Church who formed part of the welcoming group included 2 North Korea defectors, 2 immigrant workers, 2 young Catholic workers, a person with a disability and their assistant, 2 foreign missionaries, 2 religious monks and nuns, 2 senior citizens, 2 catechumens, and 2 grieving families of victims of crime.
Also present were descendants of two of the 124 Korean martyrs who Pope Francis will beatify during his Aug. 16 Mass in Seoul’s Shrine of the Martyrs of Seo So-mon.