Fr. Hoyos spends a few minutes with the pope

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Father Jose Eugenio Hoyos, director of Arlington's Spanish Apostolate, attended "Called to Holiness for a New Evangelization," the third worldwide priests' retreat, June 9-12 at the Papal Archbasilica of St. John the Lateran in Rome, where clerics from five continents reflected upon the Charismatic Renewal and new evangelization. Speakers and celebrants included Pope Francis, the secretary of the Vatican State, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and other Vatican officials.

Father Hoyos said that the most moving part of the conference was listening to the pope and briefly talking to him afterwards.

"His talk focused on the spiritual, saying that the charismatic movement is a current of grace and (a)grand evangelization tool," he said. "He told us to treat our people well, to never fear them, to be tender and calm, that our homilies should never be boring or too long."

He said that the pope also discussed the diversity of the church, adding, "The church has many faces but the one true face is the face of Christ in suffering."

After the pope's talk, five priests had the chance to ask what Father Hoyos described as "powerful questions" about suffering, ranging from the needs of the poor to Christian persecution.

Because he was sitting in the front row, Father Hoyos said he had the chance to approach the pope for a few minutes. He asked the pope to pray for Arlington, stressed how meaningful his trip to the United States will be and asked him to keep immigrants in his thoughts.

"In his presence, I could feel that he is a very holy man," said Father Hoyos. "It was a humbling experience. He is Jesus on earth. He made me proud to be a priest."

Father Hoyos received his invitation to the conference three months ago and, due to the closed nature of the event, traveled to Rome by himself. He kept the local Hispanic Catholic community abreast of his activities with Facebook and Twitter posts during a conference he said was "busy but very touching." Due to obligations in Arlington, he was unable to stay for the full conference.

"I enjoyed it all, but the pope had the most impact," he said.

Stoddard can be reached at cstoddard@catholicherald.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015