The priest was downcast. John Paul II sensed it. The priest explained: on the way to meet with the Pope he had met an old friend who had been ordained with him and was now sitting, begging, by the walls of the Vatican. The Pope asked the priest to bring his friend with him to dinner. He came, and they spoke together; then the Pope asked him to hear his confession. The priest-turned beggar was alarmed. ‘But I am not a priest in good standing.’ The answer came back: ‘Once a priest, always a priest’. Afterwards, the priest himself confessed, and the Holy Father appointed him as chaplain to the beggars.

Seeing Peter can bring healing, conversion, reconciliation. In this Year of Faith a pilgrimage to Rome can surely bring a strengthening of faith. All over the world there are seminarians and novices who would like to see the Pope and pray at the tomb of Saint Peter. In many cases it remains only a dream. But now the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation is organising a meeting with Pope Francis, for seminarians, novices and young people who feel the call of God within them. ‘I Trust in You’ is the title of the meeting. The accommodation, and above all the travel costs are beyond the means of the young people from poorer countries, however, and so the council has turned to us.

Thanks to your generosity, we have been able to help for five groups of ten of these young people to come to Rome – one group from Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus); one from Asia and its environs (Pakistan, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea); one from the Middle East (Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Egypt); one from Latin America (Cuba, Haiti, Bolivia); and one from Africa (Sudan, D.R. Congo). Our help will undoubtedly bear fruit a hundredfold, when these young seminarians and novices return as apostles to their own home countries. And as Pope John Paul II said in 1989, in Madagascar, being apostolic means ‘endeavouring to allow the newness of the Gospel to reach and transform mentalities and social structures, in order in this way to promote the happiness and moral progress in the life both of individuals and of communities.’

One great event with a worldwide apostolic impact will surely be the World Youth Day at the end of July in Rio, Brazil. Once again we are being asked by the youth pastors in the poorer countries if we can help them. We have promised financial aid for 49 Armenian Catholics from Egypt and for 100 young people from Iraq. As Bishop Yussif Abba in Baghdad says, ‘This will strengthen their faith and give them hope to stay on in this country and live here as Church.’

To prepare for this, they and many tens of thousands of other young people from all over the world will have received in advance a copy of the youth catechism YOUCAT – thanks to your generosity. Before we can proclaim the Good News, we first have to know it. But what is also true is that ‘It is not science that redeems man: man is redeemed by love’ (Benedict XVI). And this is something they will experience in the personal encounter with other Christians, in communion with the Pope.

This article can be found in Mirror 0513.