LUNCH WITH YOUNG PEOPLE
BY CINDY WOODEN, CNS
TWELVE YOUNG people representing different continents and countries were selected to have lunch with the Pope on July 18.
They brought him gifts, which included handicrafts from their home countries and three CDs of classical music.
Armando Cervantes, 27, director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Orange, California, gave the Pope a souvenir Mickey Mouse hat from his diocese which includes Disneyland.
The hat, featuring the cartoon character's big ears, was inscribed "Benedict xvr, Mr Cervantes said. The Pope did not try it on, but he smiled.
Mr Cervantes also gave the Pope the US bishops' Book of Blessings, photos from the Pope's April trip to America, a California Angels baseball and a little "stress ball".
"The Pope was squeezing it, but his assistants took the gifts away quickly," Cervantes said.
Mr Cervantes, chosen to represent North America at the papal table, said he managed to eat the meal pretty much without looking at it.
"I kept looking up to make sure it was all real and that he [the Pope] hadn't disappeared," he said.
Mr Cervantes said the young people exchanged e-mail addresses and were planning on keeping in touch with each other through their pages on Facebook, a social networking website.
Ijeoma Jacinta Igwe, a 25year-old Nigerian, was still so excited after lunch that she couldn't seem to remember much of anything.
"He asked me so many things about young people and the Church," she said.
"I was very emotional and excited," she said. "The joy I have today, I believe will be an endless joy... 1 wished the moment would never end."
The Pope sat at the table between Jorgiana Lima de Santana, 26, of Brazil and Cho Wonhyong, 28, of South Korea.
Mr Cho said he told the Pope about "young people in the Korean Church and their love for Christ and the Church and their concern for justice and peace".
A young Korean said sitting next to the Pope was not nerveracking at alit was fantastic. He was very comfortable, so it was not a problem to eat. Everyone was joyful," he said.