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A Pope of Encounter

Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. for the World Meeting of Families proved that his character is one of not only unconditional love, but also genuine encounter.

Archdiocese of Denver Chancellor David Uebbing experienced this firsthand while he, his wife Jenny and six-week-old son Luke Maximillian were waiting anxiously amidst a crowd of people in Philadelphia to catch a glimpse of the Holy Father when his motorcade rolled by them and slowed down long enough for Luke to be kissed by the Pope.

Uebbing said this special act by Pope Francis towards his family was a perfect example of the kind of effect the Holy Father sought to have during his first U.S. visit.

“It was such a blessing,” Uebbing said. “Pope Francis talks about creating a culture of encounter, and I think that’s one of the things you saw during his visit. What he really did was he just tried to encounter the people of the United States, and I think he was really successful in doing that.”

Uebbing, along with Luke and Jenny, showed up to Independence Mall at 9:30 a.m on Sat., Sept. 26, and waited around all day by the barricades in the Papal audience area hoping for a chance to see Pope Francis up close and maybe get a wave from him. After about seven hours of waiting, Jenny spotted the Pope’s motorcade and signaled his arrival to Uebbing.

“[His arrival] was actually a little anti-climactic,” said Uebbing. “There wasn’t any kind of music or anything, you just saw some police cars coming, a couple of SUV’s and then there was the Pope in the Popemobile.”

Uebbing grabbed Luke from Jenny and made eye contact with head of Vatican security Domenico Giani, whom David remembered from his time in Rome, where he was stationed in 2013 as a journalist for Catholic News Agency. Giani came over to David at the barricade, picked up Luke, took him over to the Popemobile and lifted him up for the Pope to kiss.

As thrilling a moment as it was, Luke didn’t seem to notice what was going on.

“Luke was kind of asleep,” Uebbing said. “He was just kind of splayed out.”

Giani brought Luke back to Uebbing and his wife, and Uebbing thanked him in Italian. But their special encounter with Pope Francis didn’t end there.

“One of the coolest things for us was that after Luke got kissed, the Pope stopped his Popemobile right in front of us, and then for five seconds he just looked right at Jenny, and then he stopped and looked right at me with a huge smile on his face,” Uebbing said.

This culture of encounter, Uebbing said, is exactly what the world needs in order to hear the truth of the Gospel and receive the love that Christ offers.

“I think our world is acutely aware that it’s fallen, but it doesn’t want to admit it, especially if it knows the person who’s saying it isn’t compassionate,” Uebbing said. “I see that Pope Francis’ approach is the best approach for the times we live in.”

Aaron Lambert
Aaron is the Managing Editor for the Denver Catholic.
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