PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Pope Francis kissed the forehead of a boy with cerebral palsy after landing in Philadelphia on Saturday morning, coaxing a small smile from the severely disabled 10-year-old.
Francis apparently spied Michael Keating as he was being driven away from the plane. Ordering the Fiat to stop, Francis got out and walked over to the boy, put his hand on his head and kissed him as his sobbing mother looked on.
Kristin Keating thanked the pope, who grasped her hand. Francis also shook the hand of Keating’s husband, Chuck Keating, the band director at Bishop Shanahan High School in Downingtown. The band serenaded Francis as he arrived in Philadelphia for the last leg of his six-day visit to the United States.
“It was an unbelievable feeling,” Kristin Keating said of the papal encounter, adding she felt “totally blessed and loved” by the pope.
Her son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 6 months old. He also has a profound intellectual disability as well as vision and hearing problems and cannot do anything for himself, communicating through various moans and cries.
Michael, who got up 2:15 a.m. for the trip to Philadelphia, had been agitated off and on throughout the morning, but he seemed to calm in the pope’s presence.
“When the pope took his hand off him, he had a bit of a smile on his face. To me, in that moment, he must have felt that blessing,” said Kristin Keating, a fourth-grade teacher from Elverson.
“For us, it was beautiful,” she added. “For us, it meant something.”
Francis later blessed several disabled children at a Mass at Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul.