During World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, in 2013, a boy made his way through the crowd to hug Pope Francis tearfully. That boy, now a young man, is discerning religious life.
The news was released Jan. 3 by the Bishop of Lorena, Joaquim Wladimir Lopes Dias, who in a Facebook post shared the photo of Pope Francis hugging Nathan de Brito, then nine years old, and another photo showing him now as a young man dressed as a postulant of the Order of Friars Minor in Rondonópolis.
Many faithful, especially in Brazil, remember the image of Nathan de Brito hugging the Holy Father.
Recordings show Nathan going after the passing popemobile and managing to get security to pick him up and take him to the vehicle. The little boy is then seen clinging to and hugging the Pope several times with tears streaming down his face as he resisted efforts to pull him away from the pope.
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After Pope Francis gave him a blessing, one of the security guards manages to pull the boy away from the vehicle and comfort him as he leads him to where his family was standing. On the way back to his family, the boy is seen covering his face and crying with emotion.In his Jan. 3 post, Bishop Lopes shared a photo of himself in front of the altar in a church, and next to Nathan de Brito, now a smiling young man wearing a white robe and a cross on his chest.The photos are accompanied by a brief text, where the prelate indicates that the young man in the photo is Nathan and that “today he is visiting Lorena where he lived for a few years.”Bishop Lopes also revealed that Nathan “received a pectoral cross from the Pope, with permission to wear it” and concluded by announcing that “currently, he is a postulant of the Order of Friars Minor in Rondonópolis in Mato Grosso state. Many blessings!”In addition to recalling Nathan’s presence at WYD, the prelate wrote that three years later, in 2016, Nathan participated in the Brazilian Bishops Conference’s Vocation Month.The photo showing Nathan’s emotional embrace of Pope Francis was used as a symbol for that Vocation Month, which Nathan said later in a 2018 interview “was a surprise.”
“I only realized that it was a campaign when my diocesan bishop, at a Mass where I was serving as an acolyte, commented to me saying that he had seen me on the campaign theme poster. I thought it was something going on within the Bishops’ Conference itself,” the young man explained.In that same interview, Nathan revealed that his “dream” was to be a priest, and that in addition to his First Communion, his encounter with Pope Francis was one of the milestones of his vocation story.“The special moment that marked my vocation story was my First Eucharist. From that day onwards, unworthy as I am, I became a living tabernacle of Jesus in the Eucharist. Another very powerful moment for me was the unexpected meeting with Pope Francis at WYD Rio 2013.″