• Wartakanlah Injil kepada segala makhluk.
    Mrk 16:15

  • 你们往普天下去, 向一切受造物宣传福音
    谷 16:15

  • Everything is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit’s Grace.
    St Arnold Janssen

  • Segala sesuatu menjadi mungkin dalam kekuatan karunia Roh Kudus.
    St. Arnold Janssen

  • 我当传教士不是为主牺牲,而是上主给我的最大恩赐
    圣福若瑟神父

  • Với sức mạnh Ân Huệ của Chúa Thánh Thần, Mọi việc đều có thể được.
    St Arnoldus Janssen

  • Preach the Gospel to the whole creation./Anh em hãy đi khắp tứ phương thiên hạ, loan báo Tin Mừng cho mọi loài thọ tạo
    Mk 16:15

  • There are many different gifts, but it is always the same Spirit.
    1 Cor 12:4

  • And the Word became flesh and lived among us.
    Jn 1:14

  • Let the word of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you.
    Col 3:16

  • To proclaim the Good News is the first and greatest act of love of neighbour.
    St Arnold Janssen

  • 传扬天国福音是第一且最大的爱近人行动
    圣杨生•爱诺德神父

  • Có nhiều đặc sủng khác nhau, nhưng chỉ có một Thần Khí/
    1 Cor. 14:4

  • 圣言成了血肉,寄居在我们中间
    若 1:14

  • Ada rupa-rupa karunia, tetapi Roh satu
    1 Kor 12:4

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Thursday, 21 December 2017 12:49

My digital encounter with the Pope - a reflection

 

Fr Anthony Le Duc SVD 150 LighterBy Fr Anthony Le Duc SVD

On 29 November 2017, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at a football field in Yangon, Myanmar. This was Pope Francis’ first trip to this developing country that has only recently opened up with a change in government. Myanmar is an overwhelmingly Buddhist country, and its 700 thousand Catholics make up a tiny percentage of the total population. Therefore, Pope Francis’ decision to make an apostolic visit to this country was a tremendous honor for the local church that has suffered through decades of control under an oppressive military regime.

Because the Mass was scheduled for 8.30 in the morning, people started to congregate on the grounds the night before. I made the trip from Bangkok to Yangon on the previous day, in time for the celebration. I arrived at the grounds around 5.30 in the morning. By that time, the place was already filled with people gathering from all over the country. In an indoor facility adjacent to the sport field, hundreds of priests from Myanmar and neighboring countries like Thailand and Vietnam were sitting or standing in small groups chatting while waiting for the time to process out.

Pope in Myanmar Anthony Le Duc 450An hour before Pope Francis was scheduled to arrive, all the concelebrants in the Mass lined up and made our way out onto the field, which now was completely filled with people. Priests who were first in line chose the best seats near the aisle in order to get a better view of Pope Francis when he makes his round of the field. I was not able to get an aisle seat, but about four seats away.

Although everyone had a seat to himself, by the time Pope Francis appeared on the scene no one kept to their own seat but tried to make their way to the aisle in order to be closer to him. I was among them, and as the Pope passed by I was in a position to see him very clearly and also to take a good photo of him with my phone. I managed to take several photos and was quite happy with one of the pictures. I later shared that photo on my Facebook page and received a lot of good feedback for it.

In the days afterward, as I looked at the nice photo of Pope Francis and feeling content that I managed to have something to remember my trip to Myanmar by, something occurred to me. I realised that my memory of Pope Francis as he passed by only a metre away was not a completely direct experience. I saw him through the screen of my smart phone, and my memory of him is now aided by a digital image. I never actually “saw” Pope Francis directly even though he was close enough that I could look at him in the eyes and notice the wrinkles on his face. I as well as the thousands of people who lined the aisles that day chose to let our encounter with Pope Francis be mediated by a digital screen rather than a completely direct encounter between two embodied individuals. I put myself in Pope Francis’ position and thought about how strange to be passing by so many people but not able to look at their faces, to see the gleam in their eyes, or to notice the crevice of their mouth when they smile.

 As I recount the memory of my Myanmar trip, I am still happy a have a good photo of Pope Francis for keepsake. But I can’t help but feel some regret because I could have had more, only if I remembered to put down the phone and take a second to have a direct encounter with the man whom I tried so hard to get close to.  

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