NYC Kids Meet Francis: 'It's Like, Oh My God, It's the Pope!'

by Tracy Jarrett and Tracy Connor /  / Updated 

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Thirteen-year-old Guadalupe Labra couldn’t believe it when Pope Francis stopped to hold her hand outside Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem on Friday.

Asked to describe the feeling, she responded as only an eighth-grader can.

"It’s like, oh my God, it’s the POPE!" she said.

Guadalupe was one of a few dozen lucky youngsters who got to meet the pontiff outside and inside the school. It was nerve-racking — and thrilling.

Image: Pope Francis speaks with children while visits a classroom in Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem, in New York
Pope Francis speaks with children while visits a classroom in Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem.POOL / Reuters

"I had been waiting a long time, so I was sweating," said Christopher Diaz, 12. "But after I shook his hand, I wasn’t sweating anymore. All I felt was joy ... I felt that God was in me.

"I think I’ll feel like this forever. I’m never going to forget this moment that I got to meet the pope."

Christopher said Francis lingered long enough that he was able to ask him, in Spanish, to pray for his father, who has some health problems.

"I sense he is different from other popes," the boy said. "He had that smile on his face. He looks like you want to hug him."

Inside the school, the pope went to a classroom where other students were assembled, stopping at each table to listen to the little boys in girls in neat blue and maroon uniforms.

Victor Franco, 13, who attends St. Paul’s School, said he got to see the pope "eye to eye."

"It’s crazy. I started tearing up. My heart was pounding so fast," he said.

"He told me one thing: to pray for him. Can you imagine that?" Victor said. "I made a deal with him. I promised to pray for him if he prays for my family."

Essa Nahshal was among those who met the pontiff Friday.
Essa Nahshal was among those who met the pontiff Friday.NBC News

It was Essa Nahshal’s job during the classroom tour to show the pope the smartboard, an interactive display used as an educational tool.

The pope may have his own Twitter account, but his computer skills seemed a little rusty to Essa, who attends St. Charles Borromeo School.

"He was trying to move a pail of water on the smartboard and it didn’t work," he said.

Essa is Muslim but said he was still overjoyed to be chosen to meet the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

"He seemed like a special person who was going to become my friend," Essa said.

His only wish is that he had gotten know Francis a little better.

"I wanted to ask him would you ever lend your car — I think they call it the Popemobile — to the homeless," Essa said. "I didn’t get to ask him, but I think he would."

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