Who wants a Fanta with Pope Benedict? Ethan and Aveah Tuncap do

CHARLESTON—Ethan and Aveah Tuncap know something you don’t about Pope Benedict XVI — his favorite drink is Fanta orange soda.

The siblings and the rest of their family learned this tidbit when they ate lunch with the pope while attending the World Meeting of Families held in Milan recently.

Yes, that’s right. The family from Charleston, S.C., who considered it a miracle just to attend the gathering, was personally invited by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput to dine with Pope Benedict.

Janell, matriarch of the clan, said she and her husband Allen were so awestruck during the meal that they didn’t know what to say. But their two oldest children, Ethan, 10, and Aveah, 6, stood beside the pope’s chair to chat with him, Janell said.

Ethan said they talked about school, how the children get along, and things they like to eat and drink. For Aveah it was the best part of the journey.

Their younger brothers — Tobey, 3, Elyjah, 2, and baby Madden — were shy at lunch, Ethan said, but Tobey beams when he talks about how he got to hug Pope Benedict. “He hugged me on the head,” he explained.

Lunch with the Holy Father was the highlight, but amazing things seemed to happen every day. They went from nowhere to stay to an invite from lifelong friends stationed in Germany; then to a host family on a farm in Italy.

On the first day of the world meeting, during the audience with the pope, they were seated about 10 feet from the table of honor. Each time, Allen said he would think “dayenu”, Hebrew for “it would have been enough for us”, and then they’d receive more.

Even their misfortune turned to blessings: The couple was pickpocketed in Rome and lost all their ID and credit cards. Allen, who’d had his phone turned off the whole trip, turned it on to cancel their cards, opening the line for the call from the archbishop.

The serviceman — petty officer 2nd class in the U.S. Coast Guard — almost didn’t answer because the number was unknown. But he did, and his jaw dropped in amazement when he heard the voice of Archbishop Chaput and what he had to offer. It turns out the archbishop had read about the Tuncaps and wanted to reach out to the family and bless them for their faith.

During their personal meeting with the pope, the couple said they learned something else: Pope Benedict’s encyclical on love is more than just words, it’s how he treats everyone he meets.

Read more in the July 26 edition of The Miscellany

Photo courtesy of L’Osservatore Romano