POPE LUNCHES WITH WYD
PILGRIMS, YOUTH TOUCHED BY HIS WARMTH
Cologne, Aug. 19, 2005 (CNA)
- Twelve World Youth Day pilgrims had the privilege to
have lunch with Pope Benedict XVI Friday at the Grand
Seminary of Cologne. The six women and six men, whose
ages ranged from 18 to 28, came from six continents.
Five were from Europe, two from Africa and one each from
North America, South America, Australia and Asia.
The lunch, which
consisted of a salad, a vegetable omelet, potatoes, and
apple pie for dessert, lasted for nearly an hour and a
half. The Pope had been offered trout instead but he
declined, saying that he wanted the same thing that the
young people were having.
Rondeau was one of the 12, and she was pleasantly
surprised to discover that the new pontiff was warm and
welcoming. “I was expecting someone colder, more
distant, guided more by protocol, but it wasn’t the
case,” she admitted to reporters.
Rondeau, 23, said the
Pope’s questions and eye contact demonstrated that he
was really interested in what the pilgrims had to say.
He asked the Montreal native about the two movements of
which she is a member, namely Marie Jeunesse and
Canadian Catholic Outreach, which runs peer ministry
programs in university campuses across Canada.
Rondeau, a long-term
volunteer at WYD, had introduced herself to the Pope in
English but then said that she came from Canada’s
French-speaking province, Quebec. “I think it’s really
sad that a francophone is not speaking in French,” the
Pope told her.
She therefore proceeded
to ask the Pope her questions in her native language,
and he replied in French. His English is good but his
French is better, Rondeau said.
The Pope was also
interested in hearing about what is happening in Canada
and North America.
The Pope “sort of”
touched the topic of sex abuse in the Church in North
America, said Rondeau. She reported that the Pope said:
“What we need are priests and religious who are really
involved and engaged in their relationship with Christ,
that their vocation has a solid foundation in a
relationship with Christ, and that their apostolate is
lived out of love, out of the fruit of this
The Pope desires that
people committed to Christ spread the message of the
Gospel with life with joy, she said. “Somehow I thought
he was telling me what his expectation is of North
America,” she added.
She asked the Pope about
his childhood dreams. According to Rondeau, the Pope
replied: “In Germany, we’re more rational, somehow, so I
didn’t try to find out my feelings or ideas. I tried to
figure out how to build the Church.
He also spoke about the
difficult situation in Africa, both generally and for
priests and religious to live their vocations and run
During the lunch, the
Pope spoke only briefly about himself and about the
experience of being elected to the pontificate. Rondeau
said she thought the Pope to be very private and
reserved, yet very welcoming.
She remarked on the way
Pope Benedict greets large groups of people as he enters
a room. Pope John Paul II had a particular way of
greeting people with one hand, she said, but Pope
Benedict puts both hands out in what she interprets as a
gesture of openness and great welcome.
The Pope was happy to
have had lunch with the young people and seemed to have
wanted to stay longer, said Rondeau.
The other young people
represented France, Ireland, Chile, Benin, Kongo, China,
Germany, Slovenia, Australia and Palestine.