2 Tell of Their Lunch With the Pope
Interviews With Youth Representatives
COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 20, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict
XVI lunched with a dozen youth from around the world on
Friday at the archbishop of Cologne's residence. Below
are interviews with two of the youth, and their
impressions of the encounter with the Pope.
* * *
Lubica Jovanovic, 19, from the Australian Archdiocese
of Sydney, gave Pope Benedict a toy koala bear and
kangaroo upon their meeting.
Jovanovic: Lunch with the Pope today was really
emotional at the beginning, I had butterflies in my
tummy, I was so nervous as I didn't know what to expect.
But, once he walked in, I just started to cry. Tears
rolled down my cheeks as I couldn't believe it was
happening to me. It was such an honor and I will always
remember this day.
During lunch it was a little difficult to follow the
conversation as the conversation was mostly in German,
French or Spanish, rather than English. But just as I
was feeling a little left out, Pope Benedict would speak
to me and just look straight into my eyes. I felt so
Q: This Pope however is a different one than what you
were expecting when you originally registered for this
pilgrimage. What is it about Benedict XVI that means so
much to young people?
Jovanovic: I think there's something really special
about this Pope. I hadn't really seen him properly until
today and I realized how engaging he is and how
interested he is in every person from around the world.
He is just a gift and something so different at the same
time. I don't really know how to explain it.
When we were talking, the press was all around us, but
he didn't seem to notice. We were his priority. To be
recognized and loved in that way is really important for
a young person.
A lot of youth today are looking for love via the
secular temptations of sex, drugs and rock and roll, but
in seeing the way our Holy Father interacts with us, I
think he offers another option of how to experience love
-- the pure love of Christ.
I wish that everyone could have had this experience
because I am just so happy -- I can just remember his
face and how much I wanted to hug him because he
reminded me of a big, beautiful teddy bear. The
atmosphere was so peaceful and I felt so good that I
feel that I had a little nibble of paradise.
Q: Now this Pope is the spiritual father of faithful the
world over and for the youth -- is that the sense you
are getting from the experience of WYD?
Jovanovic: Yes I am. One of the others at the lunch
today asked him the question: What do you think we
should do? And he answered that me should make Christ
our center and then everything would go well. I might
have heard this 10,000 times before now, but coming from
him it really inspires me to go deeper in my faith, to
make God my No. 1.
He has so much to offer with just his presence, there's
really something special about him.
Q: Well, rumor has it that the next World Youth Day
might be Down Under. What do you think of that?
Jovanovic: It would make me so happy to have the world
to come to my home of Sydney -- I would drag everyone
there to experience the joy -- it would be the best time
ever! And I have a feeling now that it will happen
because when I introduced myself to the Pope and said
where I was from -- Australia -- his eyes lit up and he
said: "Oh, yes, the host country of the next World Youth
Day, no?" I answered excitedly: "Yes, God willing." To
this he said: "Yes, yes."
So I have a strong feeling that it will be in Sydney,
and if it is, it's going to really change history -- I
can barely wait until his official announcement on
Q: On the boat yesterday, the Pope spoke about opening
your heart to Christ and to let him speak to you. What
did these words mean to you?
Jovanovic: When I heard him say these words I agreed
with him straight away because when I converted to the
faith four years ago, my life changed totally for the
better. And when I look at his life, it's an example of
trusting in the will of God -- as a priest, then as a
bishop, then as an archbishop, cardinal and now Pope.
It makes me feel more strongly that God will lead me to
different places -- I don't know, I might become a nun,
I might get married -- anything can happen when it's all
in God's hands.
A few years back I would never have imagined myself
being a youth minister of the Sydney Archdiocese, but
with God's help anything is possible!
* * *
Johnny Bassous, 20, represented his youth group
from Bethlehem in the Holy Land.
Bassous: For me it was such a great blessing and such a
pleasant meeting that I too felt very blessed and
uplifted in my heart to meet such a blessed Holy Father,
and I felt like he was really very close to us.
His words were so touching, uplifting and encouraging
for our Christian faith. He mentioned the words
"deepening our faith" more than once and that we need to
live out our Christian life among other peoples of
different backgrounds peacefully, especially those who
live in countries comprised of diverse religions.
He also mentioned a part of Scripture from Peter 1 which
says that we should give reasons of hope for those who
ask us about our Christian faith -- in other words, our
life speaks to other people and motivates them to ask us
about why we live in such a manner, so it was so great
to hear these encouraging words from him.
Q: You mention the Pope's words on bridging gaps among
different cultures, and that this is a theme felt deeply
in the Holy Land. How do you feel that this meeting with
the Pope today will help you to personally continue to
try to make a difference to promote peace in your
Bassous: You know, one of the greatest commandments that
the Lord gives us is to love our neighbors, and even
love our enemies -- not that I see anyone as my enemy.
The bible teaches us how to love and live together.
So, for me, encouraged by the urgings of this Pope, I
think that loving others in this way -- loving the
Muslims and the Jews together with my fellow Christians
-- is one of the solid things that I can do to begin our
dialogue of peace. This is the message -- of
reconciliation -- that I want to carry back home by
living out my Christian life on a daily basis.
Q: The Pope himself has given us an example of how we
can do this. Just before he came to have lunch with all
of you, he met with the Jewish community of Cologne in
the synagogue here. What did this gesture signify for
Bassous: For me, when I hear of such occurrences, I feel
very happy because as Christians, we are called to break
down all the borders and barriers among peoples.
I remember when his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, went
to pray at the Wailing Wall, and visited the mosques of
the Muslims. This represented that he is a man not only
of words, but of deeds and actions. This is an example
of what we are all called to do.