BRAZIL-POPE-WYD-CHILDGrowing up as a young priest, a terrible sadness for us is the climate that has been engendered by the paedophile crisis. The terrible acts of a tiny minority of dysfunctional priests has smeared us all, to such an extent that it seems crazy to family and friends that we enter the priesthood in this day and age.  Sure, we are not entering for an easy life or the prestige and power!  Our formation, screening and training is excellent to prepare us for comprehensive safeguarding and a sensitivity to the vulnerable adults and children.  However there has also been a real climate of fear about engaging with young people, and cases of false allegations and a litigious culture can act like a straight jacket on your pastoral impulses.

That is why Pope Francis global witness is so liberating for us!  How comfortable he is in his own skin, as a friend who received a blessing from him recently said – he just radiates joy and love.  And more importantly how children flock to him and embrace him.  This is a great boost to our confidence and long may it continue.  The world needs that powerful witness of Francis – like a Grandad to the world.  And children who are being robbed of their childhood by pornography and hypersexualisation, they also need him.  Below are two moving examples of this.

Firstly a clip that was replayed and replayed by the Brazilian TV channels when the Pope was over for World Youth Day. Nathan de Brito, the little boy who broke past barriers to run into Pope Francis’ arms. As They embraced on the Popemobile as de Brito confided to Pope Francis, “Your Holiness, I want to be a priest of Christ, a representative of Christ.” Pope Francis beamed at the small child in the Brazilian national soccer team jersey and told him, “I am going to pray for you, but I ask you to pray for me.” He wiped tears from his eyes as he embraced de Brito and told him, “As of today, your vocation is set.” After exiting the Popemobile, the video shows de Brito blowing the Pope a kiss before covering his face with his hands, completely overwhelmed by the incredible experience.

The second clip is of the Pope meeting  migrants who had been shipwrecked in Lampedusa and those who helped them…and then there is the little boy in the yellow short….he will not leave the Pope’s side! he even escorts a little girl to see the Pope!  A security guy tries to bribe him with candy but has no luck…he wants to stay with Francis! As the commentator on you tube says – I love this kid…and understand him! This happens in the first couple of minutes in the clip