Pope Francis in S. Korea: Delivers Speech in English for Very 1st Time, Rides Bullet Train (VIDEO)
By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | August 18, 2014 12:10 PM EST
Deviating from the norms to create his own landmark legacies is nothing new with Pope Francis. He has been doing surprises since taking on the leadership of the Roman Catholic church in March 2013. But in his first ever visit to Asia, the pope did more than a surprise when he deviated from his language comfort zone Italian to deliver a speech in English.
Pope Francis speaks as he leads a mass in Sibari, southern Italy, June 21, 2014. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito (ITALY - Tags: RELIGION)
He may have had a hard time delivering it, but his sincerity and genuine thoughtfulness to reach the multitude in the language they most know best was well appreciated. The crowds mostly comprised of the youth cheered and applauded Pope Francis on.
Pope Francis' first ever English address in South Korea was made Friday for some 50,000 Catholics at a stadium.
Pope Francis urged Asia's young people to open their hearts to Christ. "Today, Christ is knocking at the door of your heart, and of my heart. He calls you and me to rise and to be wide awake and alert to see the things in life that really matter."
After some time, presumably already exhausted speaking in uncharted linguistic territory, he told his audience that he was once advised by a friend never speak to young people with paper.
"You must speak, address to young people spontaneously, by the heart," the Korean Herald cited Pope Francis saying in English as he showed to the attendants of the sixth Asia Youth Day his prepared remarks.
"But I have a great difficulty. I have poor English." The audience shouted "Noooo!" in response.
"Yes! Yes!" he argued. "If you desire, I can to say other things spontaneously. Are you tired?" he asked.
A battle of sorts ensued. "Nooooo!" the kids shouted. "May I go on?" he asked. "Yesssss!" they shouted.
But by then, Pope Francis consumed his English vocabulary. "Yes. But I do it in Italian."
The last time Asia was visited by a pope was in 1999 when Pope John Paul II went to India.
Rev Federico Lombardi, spokesman of the Vatican, was proud of the spiritual pontiff. He particularly noted Pope Francis' ability to communicate despite language barriers.
"This was a rather important test for me in following the pope," the Huffington Post quoted Lombardi. "It demonstrates he is able to communicate with young people spontaneously, everywhere."
CBS New York reported then-Father Jorge Bergoglio, 30 years ago, which was way before becoming pope, he aimed to study English, which he did for three months in Ireland.
However, he felt it was much of a challenge.
"The one language that always caused me big problems was English, especially its pronunciation because I am very tone-deaf," the then Cardinal Bergoglio, who probably never thought he would become pope, said.
Vatican experts believed the pope chartered into English because it is South Korea's second popular language.
Father Robert Dodaro, a Vatican expert, CBS 2's Tony Aiello said Pope Francis' foray into English could also be his way of schooling and preparing himself for the World Meeting of Families in September 2015, scheduled in Philadelphia for three days.
"I couldn't help but thinking that he was trying to practice his English, hopefully with the plan of speaking in the United States in English," Dodaro said.
In this Asian visit, much like a giddy child, Pope Francis did yet another deviation when he rejected taking the presidential helicopter to get to the southern city of Daejeon.
The pope might have been particularly taking note of the country's high-speed train, something which he has yet to experience.
And once on South Korean soil, he wasted no time expressing his desire to ride it.
Unknown to some 500 passengers, the pontiff hopped onto a high-speed train. It was only when the train departed the station that it was announced that the pontiff of the 1.2-billion strong Roman Catholic church was onboard with them. The passengers burst into wild applause.
"I finally got to ride it in Korea," Lombardi quoted Pope Francis as saying.
Snippets of Pope Francis' English below.
Some of the photos during Pope Francis' visit to South Korea may be seen here.
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