Pope Francis: letter to a dying girl

ROME-On the night of October 11, 1962, thousands of people made their way to St. Peter’s Square to celebrate the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, called for by St. Pope John XXIII.

Unable to ignore the crowd, and before “off-the-cuff” remarks were simply what popes did, he improvised the most famous speech of his pontificate.

“My dear children, I hear your voices. Mine is just one, but it sums up the world’s. Here, the entire world is represented. I should say that even the moon has come out here tonight, to witness this amazing moment,” he said.

“Returning home, you will find your children. Give them a caress and tell them ‘This is the caress of the pope,’” said “the good pope,” as he was known, to the torch-lit cheers. “You will find some tears to dry, say a good word: the pope is with us, especially in times of sadness and bitterness.”

Francis, who has been an outspoken supporter of his predecessor – so much so that he declared him a saint by dispensing with the miracle requirement – recently borrowed almost exactly these words for a message that had a much sadder tone.

“Your pictures are now on my desk, because in your truly special eyes I see the light of kindness and innocence,” Francis wrote in a letter to a 9-year old, Paolina Libraro.

“Thank you for sending them to me! Read this letter together with your mother, and the kiss she will now give you will be the kiss of the pope.”

The pope’s letter, dated September 22, was accompanied with a VIP ticket to the Wednesday audience of October 26, where Francis presumably would have given Libraro a kiss himself. Yet she missed the appointment: she was already too weak, fighting a three-year long battle against cancer.

Libraro died Friday, November 22, the day the Catholic Church marks the feast of St. Cecilia, patroness of musicians, exactly six months after receiving her first Communion.

“When she died, she joined the choir of the saints, led by St. Cecilia,” her cousin, Giuseppe Delprete, told Crux.

“Young Paulina was lucid, and courageous, until the very end,” Delprete said. “She never cried, she was a lively, outgoing young girl who died fighting.” Continue reading


  • Crux article by Inés San Martín, an Argentinean journalist who covers the Vatican in Rome for Crux.
  • Image: Aleteia
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