John-Henry Westen

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I told the Pope I have eight kids, he said, “Good, keep going!”

John-Henry Westen
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June 15-16, 2013 will be days I remember for the rest of my life.  I had the opportunity to participate in an official capacity with the Vatican in celebrating the pro-life encyclical of Pope John Paul II - the Gospel of Life, and meet with his successor Pope Francis.

The Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization invited LifeSiteNews.com to participate in the Vatican’s celebration of Evangelium Vitae – Pope John Paul II's encyclical known in English as "The Gospel of Life.”

Beyond promoting the Day with a few stories and interviews, LifeSiteNews.com co-founder Steve Jalsevac and I travelled to Rome to cover the events. Fr. Geno Sylva of the Pontifical Council for the promotion of the New Evangelization, an exceptional individual, asked me to read the English-language prayers at the candlelight vigil and procession.  It was beautiful.

It took place Saturday night (June 15) at the bottom of Via della Conciliazione by Castel St. Angelo.  As thousands gathered in the Roman street leading directly to the Vatican Square, three Archbishops led the participants to pray for life, and remember the Gospel of Life. Readings and prayers were recited in Italian, English, Spanish, Polish, and French, led by various pro-life leaders with those languages native to them.

As the light grew dim, thousands of candles were lit, and a silent procession moved slowly up the 500 meters to St. Peter’s Square. Once in the square the presenters and Archbishops got onto a podium for concluding prayers.

While we waited for the very long procession to get into the Square, hymns were sung in Italian, and candles held aloft.

When we spoke at the mic in the square I suddenly realized why the Popes always speak in short phrases with breaks after each phrase while delivering the Angelus – it’s the echo!

The final prayer I was asked to recite was a most beautiful prayer to Our Lady which Pope John Paul II used in concluding Evangelium Vitae. I prayed, not just recited that prayer with all my heart.

As if that wasn’t enough, that same evening I was told I would meet the Holy Father the next day.

The next day was very hot indeed, and for this Canadian boy doubly so.

The Mass held in St. Peter’s Square was packed, but not only the Square, all the way down Via della Conciliaziione was packed as well!  For hours people stood in the blistering sun till the Mass began, and once it did the crowds were ecstatic at Pope Francis’ generous trips around the Square in the open popemobile making an obviously enthusiastic effort to try to greet each one and to lift and hug as many children as time permitted.

The mass itself was beautiful, but at the start Pope Francis seemed weak, no doubt because of the long time spent greeting pilgrims in the Square in the non-covered car.  His strength rallied however and all went forward without a hitch.

As is my custom, after communion I prayed intensely for the LifeSiteNews team and our supporters. Then came the time for meeting with the Pope.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the President of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, introduced me to the Holy Father as the co-founder of LifeSiteNews.com and told him of my family of eight children.  ‘Eight children’ I heard them repeat in Italian, and I held up a family photo asking the Pope to bless them.

Referring I believe to both my work at LifeSiteNews.com and my family of eight children, the Holy Father said, “Good, keep going!” with great enthusiasm.  I laughed, and my wife did too when I told her of the blessed encounter.

We’re open to more blessings in our lives, ‘but did you tell him your wife is ___ years-old’ was her (redacted) reply.

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