Following their lunch with Pope Francis, a Chinese and a Pakistani youth said the pontiff was like a humble father who wanted to be near them.
“He told us what the message of the Pope is for us, for the youth, for the whole world,” that it is “to evangelize with the Bible, evangelize with the words of Jesus. In my eyes, the Pope is living the life of Jesus. He's a living Jesus,” Alexander John told journalists during an Aug. 15 press briefing.
John, a 33-year-old youth coordinator from Karachi, Pakistanwas one of 20 young Asian leaders who dined with Pope Francis this afternoon. He was chosen for the lunch by the executive secretary of Pakistan’s National Youth Commission.
“For me meeting the Pope is like a dream come true,” John said, explaining that during the luncheon Pope Francis “listened to each and every single one of us, whatever we said.”
“I have never seen a person at this level. He is so down to earth, so close and so warm. He met us so humbly,” John observed. “He had a short interview with each one of us. We told him our names and the countries we belong to, what we do.”
“Meeting the Pope is a complete blessing. He really made my day. He really made my life."
Also present during the Aug. 15 lunch was 22-year-old Suen Ka-Pop, who was the youngest of the group and works as the choir director at her home parish of Holy Redeemer Church in Hong Kong.
Recalling the moment when she first decided to attend Asian Youth Day, Suen explained to those present at the Aug. 15 press conference that it was after having an intense spiritual encounter with God in a dream that her parish priest invited her.
“That's when I found out that God loves me very much,” Suen stated, explaining that after that “one of the priests in my parish gave me the forms of the Asian Youth Day...I signed up immediately and payed the money immediately, therefore I'm here.”
Suen said it was exciting for her to be at Asian Youth Day because “I used a lot of time to prepare for this event, to prepare my heart and how I can face God, and how I can face the Pope.”
“Now that I'm here I find that I can make a lot of friends and also find my faith. I think that it's very valuable to be here, and very valuable to meet all of you here,” she said.
Suen said she asked the Pope two questions during lunch. The first was whether he would accept an invitation to visit Hong Kong, and the second was what he considers the mission of the Church's youth to be.
Pope Francis said he would try to visit Hong Kong but was unsure of his schedule, and that the youth of the Church need to “wake up and follow the father's step and become a focus of Jesus Christ, and shine like a sword.”
Suen also gave the Pope an image she had made of a Chinese Virgin Mother. Upon receiving the image, the Pope said “Oh, it's your work? It's very nice, I like it very much.”
“Another time I was very touched and I said 'I love you papa,' and his response was 'I love you too Bobo,’” referring to her nickname. She recalled how he told her “You're such a sweet girl' and touched my hand. Just like a father.”
“In my heart he's very nice and friendly. He doesn't put himself as the highest, he just always wanted to be near us,” she said.
Pope Francis’ lunch with the young Asian leaders took place on the second of his five day trip to South Korea, which followed the theme: “Rise Korea, clothe yourself in light, the Lord’s glory shines upon you.”
Before meeting with the youth, the Pope celebrated Mass in the Diocese of Daejeon’s World Cup Stadium where he met with families of the victims of the Sewol ferry disaster, and afterward traveled to the Solmoe Holy Ground to celebrate the beginning of the 6th Asian Youth Day. He arrived early and spoke to the youth in a lengthy off-script speech, given in Italian and English.