Pope Francis stunned the residents of a small Italian town when he stopped his motorcade to bless a disabled girl by kissing her forehead.
His attention attracted by signs that the girl's family held up, Pope Francis barely waited for the nondescript car in which he was traveling to come to a complete stop before he stepped out to bless the young woman. According to The Huffington Post, the banners, which were in Italian, read "Please Pope stop here to see an angel who has been waiting for you," and, "Please come and bless little Roberta."
The young woman whom Francis blessed, Roberta, cannot breathe on her own, nor can she travel far from her home. The girl's family was hoping to attract the attention of the Pope as he traveled back to the Vatican from Cassano allo Jonio. As The New York Daily News reports, the family got their wish when Francis' motorcade passed, as the pontiff not only kissed Roberta's forehead, but also took a moment to shake hands with the family, while some amongst the small crowd of onlookers shouted "Brava Papa Francesco!"
As The Inquisitr has previously reported, Francis was recently in the Calabria region of Italy, where he made high profile comments critical of the mafia. Publicly denouncing organized crime, the Pope also visited the Castrovillari prison while in Calabria, taking time to meet with victims of mafia activity. Francis described the more influential crime families as embodying the "adoration of evil and contempt of the common good." The pope's comments raised widespread fear and speculation that he could become a target of mafia elements after several threats to his safety were received following his statements.
Several banners proclaiming the family's thanks to Francis now hang on the outside of their home. The Pope has received widespread attention during the first years of his papacy for his efforts to reach out to the impoverished. Just two weeks into his papacy, Francis made headlines by performing a pre-Easter ritual in which he washed the feet of women and Muslim inmates at a juvenile detention center. The ritual, designed to show Pope Francis' willingness to serve others, was repeated by the pontiff earlier this year.