Meeting the Holy Father

Pope Benedict's boatacade to the Papal Welcome

Youth join Pope Benedict XVI in Sydney Harbour (Courtesy WYD 2008)

Today I met Pope Benedict XVI. The occasion was the boatacade to the Barangaroo site in Sydney Harbour, where 150,000 pilgrims waited to welcome him to World Youth Day. Some 350,000 others were along the shores en route.

Eleven members of the International Liturgy Group were granted the opportunity to speak with the Pope, each of us received word of this past weekend.  We nervously rehearsed the choreography of the meeting just one hour prior, kneeling before our pontifical body double Chris Valka C.S.B.–a fellow blogger on these pages who happens to have also been the MC and principle organizer of the boatacade.

The small bow deck was so packed with security that I missed my cue, which was the Holy Father waving from the balcony. But when I finally saw his outrstretched arm over the heads of the officers, I managed to squeeze through. I had been randomly selected to be the first.

I knelt and kissed his ring.

“Hello Holy Father!”
“Are you from Australia?”
“No, I’m from Canada. I work for Catholic Television there.”
“What are you following?”
“We’re following you, Your Holiness! I want to thank you for your message to Quebec at the International Eucharistic Congress.”
“Oh! You were there!”
“I remember the huge rainfall.”
“Yes, it was incredible!”

My time was up, so I stood to the side as the next ILG member had her moment. This would not be the end of my encounter, however, as we were surprised to learn that we would stand next to him as the boat continued to Barangaroo.

I’ll never forget his warmth and attention as he waved to pilgrims along the shores, his papal ring glimmered mere inches from my nose. Tomorrow, I’ll share a beautiful encounter he had with a Sudanese woman from our group.

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