Pope Francis has again captured the hearts of the world, with a tear-jerking letter to a young Italian girl dying from cancer, which was read aloud at the girl’s funeral once she passed away.
“Dear Paolina, your photos are on my desk, because in your very special gaze I see the light of goodness and innocence. Thank you for sending them to me!” the Pope said at the beginning of his letter.
He instructed the girl to “read this letter together with your mother, and the kiss she will not give you will be the kiss of the Pope.”
Originally published on the Italian website “Il Faro di Roma,” the letter was dated Sept. 22 and addressed to 10-year-old Paolina Libraro, who was suffering from an advanced form of cancer.
The girl’s mother had written to the Pope asking him to bless and pray for her daughter. In response, Francis sent his letter with a special VIP ticket for this Oct. 26 general audience, where he would have given her the blessing in person.
However, Paolina, who is from the southeast Italian city of Massafra, was too ill and weak to travel as the audience drew near, and so she couldn’t make the trip to Rome. She passed away Nov. 22 and was buried the same day.
The funeral Mass was held at the Church of St. Leopold Mandic and was presided over by Fr. Michele Quaranta. Nearly the entire town was present, including the city’s mayor, Fabrizio Quarto.
During his homily, Fr. Quaranta read aloud the Pope’s letter, which reassured Paolina that “I unite my hands to yours and to those who are praying for you.”
“In this way we will make a long chain that, I am sure, will reach heaven,” Pope Francis said in the letter, and told the girl to remember “that the first link in this chain is you, because you have Jesus in your heart! Remember it!”
He told her to speak to Jesus not only about herself, but also about her parents, “who need so much to be helped and comforted in front of the difficult steps they are facing.”
“You will certainly be very good at suggesting to Jesus what to do for them,” the Pope said, and asked Paolina to also tell Jesus “what he must to for me too, while I will remind him what he must do for you.”
“I give you a very strong hug and I bless you with my whole heart, together with your parents and your loved ones,” he said, and signed the letter himself.
Pope Francis is known to make personal phone calls and send personal messages to those who contact him, often to the surprise of the one who receives his letter or hears his voice on the other end of the line.
The Pope is also known to carry several objects in his pocket that he considers special or important, including a rosary and pocket-sized Way of the Cross.
Another thing the Pope said he keeps on his desk because it touched his heart is a picture given to him by a child during his daytrip to the Greek island of Lesbos. It depicts several people drowning beside a capsized boat as the sun above them cries tears of blood.
By Elise Harris