Boy who embraced Pope is now a young man discerning religious life

During the 2013 World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, a boy made his way through the crowd to hug Pope Francis tearfully. That boy, now a young man, is discerning religious life.

Jan 14, 2022

Nathan de Brito and Pope Francis at World Youth Day 2013 and with Bishop Joaquim Wladimir Lopes Dias in 2021. (Bishop Joaquim Wladimir Lopes Dias via Facebook)


By Cynthia Perez
During the 2013 World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, 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 January 3 by the Bishop of Lorena, Joaquim Wladimir Lopes Dias, who, in a Facebook post, shared the photo of Pope Francis hugging the then nineyear- old Nathan de Brito. Another photo showing him now as a postulant of the Order of Friars Minor in Rondonópolis standing beside him (Bishop Joaquim).

Many faithful, especially in Brazil, remember the image of Nathan 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.

After Pope Francis gave him a blessing, one of the security guards managed to pull the boy away from the vehicle and comfort him as he led him back to his family. On the way back, the boy is seen covering his face and sobbing.

In his Facebook post, Bishop Lopes shared a photo of himself in front of the altar in a church, and next to Nathan, now a smiling young man wearing a white robe and a cross on his chest.

The photos are accompanied with a brief text, stating 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 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 realised that it was a campaign when my diocesan bishop, at a Mass where I was serving as an acolyte, said 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,” he said -- CNA

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