Pope Francis Moved Virtual Audience Members to Tears

Many were struck by his ability to connect, even though he was in Italy.

September 4, 2015, 9:00 PM

— -- Many of the audience members who got a chance to participate in the landmark ABC News virtual audience with Pope Francis were moved by his compassion -- many to tears.

"It really touched my heart. It really made me feel that he is really connecting with us," Ricardo Ortiz, 19, said after speaking to Pope Francis from a church in McAllen, Texas, one of three sites participating in the event.

Ortiz had to serve as the breadwinner for his family after his father was injured. "He understood what I was going through and he understood the hardships that followed," he said.

The virtual papal audience was moderated from inside the Vatican by ABC News’ "World News Tonight" anchor David Muir, and the pontiff spoke for nearly an hour via satellite from the Vatican with individuals from the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago’s inner city, congregants from Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, Texas, located near the U.S.-Mexico border, and homeless men and women and those working with the homeless in Los Angeles.

The locations of the three viewing groups were selected by ABC News because they are in parts of the country that Pope Francis will not be visiting during his historic trip to the United States later this month.

For a few members of the audience, Pope Francis responded directly to their questions and provided what they found to be encouraging words of wisdom.

PHOTO: Ricardo Ortiz, 19, said that the pope's comments, "touched my heart."
Ricardo Ortiz, 19, said that the pope's comments, "touched my heart."
ABC News
PHOTO: Rosemary Farfan was praised by Pope Francis for raising her two daughters
Rosemary Farfan was praised by Pope Francis for raising her two daughters
ABC News

Rosemary Farfan, a single mother of two who just recently moved out of the Good Shepherd Center for Homeless Women and Children, was moved to tears.

"I felt like a little girl, just like my dad telling me something, to 'Keep going' and it was just amazing," said Farfan, who was praised by the pope for helping her daughters through hardship.

"I'm leaving here today with some healing in my heart, that's for sure, and courage. I want to keep going forward and I just want to stay positive and share love to everybody," she said.

Even members of the audience who did not get a chance to ask Pope Francis a question were moved by the event, including Adam Nichol, a man who used to be homeless and now lives and works at the Midnight Mission.

"This experience touched me and it will be something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life," Nicol said.

Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, was surprised when the Pope singled her out in the audience in McAllen, Texas.

“He said, ‘Where’s the sister? I want to talk to her.’ And I said oh! That’s me. He’s actually speaking to me.” Afterward Pimentel told ABC News, “I’m still in heaven, you know? I’m still in heaven still experiencing his presence. He’s telling me ‘I love you very much’ at the end. I was like ‘Oh, wow.’ Those words are staying with me forever you know. It is so wonderful to hear those words from him – beautiful.”

Pope Francis' presence was enough for some to feel like they were touched by his response. That was the case for Alexandra Vasquez, a 17-year-old student at a Jesuit high school in Chicago, who told the pope about her struggles growing up largely without a father after he died when she was young.

"Just the fact that he [was] listening and looking at me, it was really special," she said.

The pope’s upcoming U.S. trip later this month includes a meeting with President Obama at the White House, an address in front of a joint meeting of Congress, an address at the U.N. General Assembly in New York and a "multi-religious service" at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

His trip will conclude in Philadelphia at the World Meeting of Families, a global event organized by the Catholic Church that focuses on strengthening family bonds. Event organizers expect up to 2 million people to attend the pope’s closing mass.

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