Special hug for ‘special child’ by Pope: 15 minutes
CEBU CITY, Philippines—Pope Francis may have left the Philippines, but his legacy lives on especially among people whose lives he touched, including that of 33-year-old Christian Gomez from Palo town in Leyte province.
Gomez, who was diagnosed with a “maturity disorder,” was hugged tightly by the Holy Father while the latter was on his way out of Palo Cathedral on Saturday.
“Christian (Gomez) suddenly stood up and rushed to the altar. And when Pope Francis saw him, the Holy Father hugged him for about 10 to 15 minutes,” said Gomez’s cousin Cecilia Bacha.
During that time, Pope Francis had just announced that he was cutting short his visit to Palo due to bad weather and that he was catching the 1 p.m. flight to Manila.
But Bacha said the Holy Father took some time to hug Gomez, who has the mental state of a 10-year-old boy.
“It took quite a long time for the Pope to hug my cousin. In fact, I managed to kiss the hand of the Holy Father while he hugged Christian,” she said.
“And I told Pope Francis ‘Thank you, thank you,’ And he just smiled,” she added.
Asked what he felt when the Pope hugged him, Gomez beamed and said “happy.”
Although no one from the family got a picture of Gomez’s encounter with Pope Francis, Bacha said they would keep that memory in their hearts forever.
T-shirt as souvenir
They kept the T-shirt worn by Gomez as a souvenir or a relic in case Pope Francis is canonized in the future.
“I felt like floating in the air because of joy. Imagine, of all the people who want to see the Pope, we got the opportunity to come near him and touch him,” said Bacha who took care of Gomez for several years.
Gomez’s elder sister Diedre, who was also present at the cathedral, said she never expected to come close to the Holy Father.
“We were able to get inside the cathedral just 30 minutes before the Pope arrived,” she said.
Diedre, whose husband works as a volunteer at the cathedral, said she didn’t mind seeing the Pope for just a few minutes.
“Seeing him is enough. And we’re just very grateful to have been given that chance,” she said.
Diedre, Gomez and Bacha live in a house one block away from Palo Cathedral.
They too were victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), staying for over an hour at the ceiling of their house when the floods came.
“The water was so high. We thought it was our end. But here we are, still alive. It’s really a blessing from God,” Diedre said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.