TORONTO, JULY 28, 2002 (ZENIT.org).- John Paul II played host to 14 young lunch guests at his Strawberry Island retreat, an event that included a Beatles singalong by the World Youth Day participants.
The youth — who were handpicked for the meal and who came from around the world — were still singing as they sailed back to shore on Friday afternoon, after lunch with the Pope, the National Post reported.
“It was extraordinary,” said Cliffton Mamid, who traveled to World Youth Day from Broome, in western Australia. “It was just like having dinner with your grandfather.”
After greeting the Holy Father, the young people entered a wooden cabin with a fireplace for a meal of spaghetti with asparagus and coleslaw, followed by cake, the Post said.
The Pope said grace before the meal. After their meal the young guests sang the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” and John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Road.”
Frank Sinclair, a 25-year-old musician from Toronto, led the group on his acoustic guitar.
“We also sang Happy Birthday. I’m not exactly sure why we did, but the Pope joined in with that,” said Robin Cammarota, who was representing a parish from the Bronx in New York.
The Pope took a special interest in Cammarota because of her connection to New York. Her parish lost five members in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
“He said it was a terrible tragedy,” Cammarota told the Post. “He said he would keep us in his prayers.”
At World Youth Day 2000 in Rome, John Paul II set a precedent for the lunch tradition when he invited 15 young people to join him.