Newlyweds receive blessing from Pope Francis

Laura and Matthew Soto, parishioners at Holy Trinity Parish in Corn Hill, were married on Nov. 22, 2014. During their honeymoon, they met Pope Francis and received his blessing, which any newly-wedded Catholic couple can do. Visit www.pnac.org/visitorsoffice/audiences/#sposinovelli for details. (Photo courtesy Laura Soto)

By Michele Chan Santos
Senior Correspondent

For newlyweds Laura and Matthew Soto, the best blessing they received happened not on their wedding day, but on their honeymoon.
Pope Francis blessed the couple during one of his general audiences in Rome on Dec. 3, 2014. The Sotos were able to speak with him briefly and give him a hug, an experience they will remember forever. 
“We didn’t know what to expect,” Laura said. “The website wasn’t really clear if we would be able to meet him personally.” The Sotos live in Jarrell and are parishioners at Holy Trinity Parish in Corn Hill. Laura Soto is a staff accountant with the Diocese of Austin and Matthew Soto is a civil engineer in Georgetown.
During the Wednesday general audience they attended, Pope Francis rode around in his pope mobile in St. Peter’s Square, Laura said. Then he went up on stage, did a reading and spoke. Afterwards, the newlywed couples –– about 25 couples –– lined up and the pope walked down to meet them.
“My husband said he was surprised to be so nervous,” Laura said. “My husband is usually a super-calm person. When we met the pope, my husband basically kind of froze. Then he said ‘We love you, Holy Father, and we are praying for you.’ Pope Francis said, ‘Please continue to pray for me, I need it.’”
Then the couple asked the pope for “un abrazo,” the Spanish word for hug. Pope Francis said “Si” (yes), and hugged them.
“Afterwards we were just looking at each other, we couldn’t believe we just met the Holy Father!” Laura said.
It turns out any newly wedded Catholic couple can be blessed by the pope. The Sotos hope other Catholic couples are able to take advantage of this opportunity too. The Pontifical North American College has a web site where American Catholics can reserve free tickets to a papal audience. In addition to general audience tickets, there are “sposi novella” or newlywed tickets for couples who have been married within two months of the audience they wish to attend. Couples must bring a copy of their Sacramental Marriage Certificate, signed by their priest, and wear wedding attire.
The Sotos were married on Nov. 22, 2014, in Carmel, Ind., Laura’s hometown. During their honeymoon, the couple was in Rome for two weeks. In addition to meeting Pope Francis, they toured several Catholic churches and went on a “scavi” tour (where visitors go underneath St. Peter’s Basilica to the tomb of St. Peter). They also climbed to the top of the Dome of St. Peter’s –– “the best view of the city by far,” Laura said.
“We have been trying to share this experience with everyone. Pope Francis has a presence that speaks to people,” she said. Months later, the couple is glad they went to Rome instead of to a tropical island.
“Meeting [Pope Francis] was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Laura said. “I’m glad we didn’t go to Hawaii.”
The link for newlywed papal audience tickets is www.pnac.org/visitorsoffice/audiences/#sposinovelli.