Young Kiwi jumps barrier and hugs Pope Francis

4 Tim Helbano hug

A Kiwi student has jumped a barrier in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican to hug Pope Francis.

Tim Helbano, originally from Wellington and now studying at the University of Sydney, and a friend managed to get tickets to the Pope’s general audience on March 28.

Tim told NZ Catholic that they managed to squeeze up to an outer barrier where the Pope would pass by.

Tim’s friend tried to reach over the barrier when Pope Francis approached, but he was still quite a long way away. So his friend jumped over the barrier and Tim followed, complete with his silver fern flag.

At an inner barrier, Tim was able to give the Pope a big hug and a kiss on both cheeks.

“It was, of course, an unforgettable and very special moment,” Tim said.

Tim was at the Vatican attending the UnivForum event, an initiative of St Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei. This year’s event was the 50th UnivForum.

“It is a gathering of university students from around the world during Holy Week, where we can discuss important issues and ideas facing our society as well as attending the Holy Week and Easter ceremonies,” Tim said.

He was one of several Kiwis at this year’s UnivForum. The 2018 topic was “Rethinking the Future”.

Pope Francis wrote a letter to those at UnivForum, noting that “your gathering is taking place during the year when the synod on ‘Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment’ will be held”.

“I encourage you to prepare to take part in this ecclesial event.”

Pope Francis quoted a statement from St Josemaria’s book “The Way”: “May you seek Christ. May you find Christ. May you love Christ.”

Pope Francis wrote to those at UnivForum: “Strive to strengthen each day your friendship with Christ, asking yourselves frequently: ‘What would Jesus do in my place? What can I do to become more and more like him and bring him to others?’”

“Seek him in prayer, in the sacraments, in all the circumstances of your life and also in the people around you: in your friends, family members, fellow students, and in the most needy and forgotten of the world, in whom Christ’s face is reflected in an especially clear way.

“I invite you to get out of yourselves, overcoming comfort-seeking and the selfishness of thinking only about your own concerns, in order to set out on the path of encountering those in need, and serving them with your talents. This is the best way of following Christ and keeping your heart always enkindled with love for him.”

Michael Otto

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