Rome, Italy – Pope Francis is really cementing his reputation as the people’s pope. While working the crowd in St. Peter’s Square from the popemobile on Easter Sunday, one move by the pontiff warmed the crowd and left two parents speechless.
Francis is quickly making a name for himself as an incredibly personal and humble pontiff, what with his low-key, street-level style and rejection of the papacy’s traditional trappings. He floored spectators yet again on Easter Sunday when he reached out of his popemobile and embraced 8-year-old American Dominic Gondreau, who has cerebal palsy.
The crowd lifted Dominic up out of his wheelchair, and Pope Francis kissed and blessed him, a gesture that moved his parents to tears.
Dominic’s father is a professor at Rhode Island’s Providence College, and is currently teaching in Rome. He called the encounter “incredibly moving,” with his wife describing the gesture as being “like a kiss from God.”
Francis also ruffled some feathers on Friday, by reaching out in friendship to “so many Muslim brothers and sisters” during a Good Friday service dedicated to Christians suffering from terrorism, war and religious fanaticism in the Middle East.
He stayed mostly “on script,” but referenced the relationship between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East during his final comments. He recalled his predecessor, Benedict XVI, and his 2012 trip to Lebanon which revealed “the beauty and the strong bond of communion joining Christians together in that land and the friendship of our Muslim brothers and sisters and so many others.”
“That occasion was a sign to the Middle East and to the whole world, a sign of hope,” he said.
Friday’s ruffled-brow comments followed another slightly controversial act by Pope Francis a day earlier, when he washed and kissed the feet of two women, one a Muslim, during a Holy Thursday ritual.
He completely broke with tradition, washing the feet of 12 inmates at a juvenile detention center, instead of at Rome’s St. John Lateran basilica, where in the past, 12 priests are chosen for the foot washing ceremony (to represent Jesus’ disciples).
So Pope Francis basically did what Jesus would have done. Just saying.
Are you a fan of Pope Francis? You can watch video of him embracing 8-year-old Dominic Gondreau below.