Peter Lombardi, 12, was only 9 when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in April 2015. His devoutly Catholic family had been set to see the pope in Philadelphia that September when they found themselves in a hospital as Peter began chemotherapy.
As the family watched the papal visit from his hospital room, “Peter said, ‘I want the man in the white to kiss me like he’s kissing all those kids.” his mother, Brenda Lombardi, told CNN.
Family travels to Rome after son beats cancer
Peter has been in remission from cancer since June 2017. His parents and three siblings planned a trip to Italy to celebrate their son’s healing and thank God for their blessing during Holy Week this year. The Lombardis arrived in Rome on Palm Sunday.
They hired a guide, Mountain Butorac, who works for The Catholic Traveler, to give them a tour of Rome from the Catholic perspective. Peter’s mother told Butorac about her son’s wish to get a kiss from the pope. She was surprised when he told her he might be able to make that happen.
On Wednesday, Butorac met up with his good friend Joanna who had connections with the Swiss Guards. The guards are responsible for keeping the pope safe. Lombardi said Joanna took them to where the Swiss Guards lived, then she coached the family. She said, ‘When Pope Francis comes by, you need to scream and we need to lift up Peter,'” Lombardi said.
One of the pope’s security guards lifted Peter up and the pope kissed him on the forehead. And he didn’t just kiss him, he let him come up and sit on the popemobile!
Days later, a photo of Peter and Pope Francis was uploaded on Pope Francis’ Instagram account (@franciscus).
Peter told his mom he thought the whole experience was great. “The Pope kissed me and blessed me and then blessed me again!”
Children with Down Syndrome, like Peter, have a higher risk of childhood cancer, including acute lymphoblastic leukemia, according to studies.
“I thanked God for always surpassing our expectations when it comes to our faith and our trust in Him. You think that when your child gets leukemia, it is a heavy cross and a battle, but through the experience, it was just full of grace,” she said. “God just kept giving us so much hope.”