.- Twelve young people from across the world shared lunch with the Holy Father at St. Mary’s Cathedral House Reception Hall on Friday. Armando Cervantes, the U.S. representative, said his encounter with the Pope made him realize that, “this is a man who loves us, who wants us to know and understand the love that Christ has for us.”
They were nominated by the Bishops Conference and included a representative from each of the continents.
WYD08 organisers also ensured that a representative from countries bringing large contingents to WYD08, and Australia’s neighbouring countries such as East Timor, and countries such as Congo and Nigeria that are enduring turmoil locally were a part of the luncheon.
The young people sat around a round table with the Pope with each sharing their personal stories and bringing greetings of warm welcome from their home country.
They each came bearing gifts from their native country. They included traditional rosary beads from Salamanca, an Aboriginal cloth, artwork from Nigeria, and some Korean handicrafts to mention a few.
Aramando Cervantes, 27 who represented USA gave the Pope a baseball, a book of blessings and photographs from the recent Papal visit to the U.S., and an orange ball.
Armando, a youth leader in the Diocese of Orange said that the Pope was “not only interested in what work we do, but also very much interested in us as a person."
When he first began the lunch Aramando said, “I was very nervous. As soon as he walked [in] he was very friendly, and open to listening to us.”
“It felt like a family reunion, coming together for Thanksgiving where everyone has been so spread out, and the grandfather was excited to hear about the stories. The Pope was excited just to be with us and very happy and smiling the whole time.”
“Whenever we spoke he was very much engaged, and nodding. You could tell he was really listening.”
“Some of us spoke in Portuguese, Spanish, German, and French, and he just spoke to everyone where they were at.”
When Armando met him, he admitted that he didn’t really know what to do.
“I did end up kissing him on the hand the first time, and the ring on the second time and put his forehead to my head. You really don’t know what you’re going to do, you’re just so nervous.”
“I mentioned to him that the U.S loves him and is praying for him, and sends all their love.”
“It wasn’t just about the show, or the media, he was really genuinely excited to see, meet us and hear our stories.”
When the Pope said to the youth, “I’m very happy to go where the young people go,” Armando realized that “this is a man who loves us, who wants us to know and understand the love that Christ has for us.”
Following the youth lunch, the Holy Father proceeded to lead the prayer at the first station of the Stations of the Cross held in locations across Sydney. The event is expected to attract half a million spectators in the city alone.