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Speechless on meeting the Pope

 Paul Collins (second from left) with Pope Francis at the Vatican [Photo: Catholic News Agency]

A young man from American Samoa was chosen to greet Pope Francis when the pontiff arrived at a pre-synod youth gathering in Rome this week.

Paul Collins was not the original delegate from the Oceania region picked to travel to Rome.

A last minute withdrawal by the Cook Islands youth delegate meant the American Samoan had the opportunity to meet the Pope.

He was the last of the delegates to arrive and said he couldn't believe it when he was selected to take part in the welcome.

"I was just speechless when the security escorted me outside where the Pope arrived," Paul Collins said.

Dressed in a red and white elei shirt and cream ie faitaga he was close to Pope Francis while cameras were clicking.

Pope Francis greeted the hundreds of young people gathered and asked them "to speak bravely" and inject a dose of creativity to a Church "in need of young prophets."

Paul Collins has been an altar boy, choir conductor, and youth leader in his parish at Tafuna.

The Faasao Marist graduate is also an American Samoa national soccer player.