A video shows Pope Francis nearly brought to tears as a 15-year-old girl suffering from a rare and painful form of bone cancer performed a stunning a capella version of “Ave Maria” during his visit to a children’s hospital in Mexico City on Sunday.
The young girl, later identified as 15-year-old Alexia Guarduno, performed the beautiful rendition of Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria” at the cancer ward of the Federico Gomez pediatric hospital in Mexico.
Pope Francis visited the hospital on the second day of his week-long visit to Mexico. He met, spoke with, and kissed several sick children during his visit, but 15-year-old Alexia’s soulful rendition marked a particularly poignant moment of the visit and brought the entire room of hospital staff and visitors at the Mexican hospital ward to tears.
Pope Francis listened quietly to the young girl as she sang with an angelic voice. When her rendition ended, he kissed and embraced her, and spoke with her briefly.
The teenager suffers from osteosarcoma and was scheduled for surgery on February 25, according to the New York Daily News, quoting Italian media sources.
Osteosarcoma refers to a form of malignant or cancerous tumor of the bone most prevalent in children, teenagers, and young adults. Most patients are below 25-years-old, and it is believed to be more common in young males than females. It often affects limb bones, with young active patients complaining of pain below the knee joint that intensifies at night. The condition could lead to sudden bone fracture due to weakening of affected bone.
The disease is believed to be caused by genetic factors or radiation. It is treated with a combination of radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery.
Delighted, Francis asked the child, “You made this? Gracias.”
It was Pope Francis’ first visit to the hospital as Pontiff but his predecessor Pope John Paul II had visited in 1979. Francis’ visit to the pediatric hospital is consistent with his established practice during foreign trips.
He met several other children who, despite being sick, were excited to meet the Pontiff. He bent over to kiss and embrace children who struggled to snap selfies with him. He stopped to give medicine from a dropper to 5-year-old Rodrigo Lopez Miranda.
Pope Francis also had the opportunity to hold private meetings away from television cameras with a few bedridden patients.
But his tone changed later when he held Mass with more than 300,000 Mexicans at Ecatepec, a sprawling, crime-infested slummy suburb of Mexico City. He delivered a stern message to the country’s leaders and “merchants of death.”
He called on corrupt leaders to help create a country that is a “land of opportunity” where citizens do not have to emigrate to fulfill their dreams and where innocent people do not have to suffer in the hands of “merchants of death,” a reference to the country’s notorious drug gangs.
Ecatepec, with a population of more than 1.5 million, gained notoriety in the international media as Mexico’s “femicide” capital, following a slew of homicides involving bodies of female victims tossed into the city’s polluted canals or simply left to rot in garbage dumps.
According to estimates by NGOs, such as the National Citizen Observatory of Femicide, from January, 2014, to September, 2015, more than 600 women were killed in Ecatepec.
Francis is also scheduled to travel to other crime and poverty hotspots in Mexico, including Chiapas, Ciudad Juarez, and Morelia, also notorious from crime and violence linked to the drug trade.
[Photo by L’Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP]