Dominic Gondreau, who is 8 years old and has cerebral palsy, is seen being held and kissed by Pope Francis while smiling and struggling to put his arm around the pontiff in giving his own greeting. The pope was greeting hundreds of thousands of visitors from his pope mobile.
Many of the major television news outlets in America showed the video images in their news reports, including CNN, NBC, ABC, and Fox. Still images were carried in newspapers worldwide including Le Figaro, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, and The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Paul Gondreau, professor of theology, is in Rome this semester serving as the faculty resident director of the PC-CEA Center for Theology & Religious Studies, where 30 PC students are enrolled. He has taught at the College since 1997. His areas of expertise are in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, marriage and family, and Christology.
According to Gondreau, his wife, Christiana, and he were in St. Peter’s Square for the Mass with their five children. The family intentionally separated because security procedures provide an area for handicapped adults and children, who may be accompanied only by one person.
As the papal tour was under way in the square, an usher signaled Christiana to get Dominic from his chair and to follow him. As the pope mobile approached, the usher motioned to the driver to stop and, with the help of Christiana, held Dominic up to Pope Francis, who took the boy in his arms and kissed him.
Gondreau described the moment as “an incredibly moving encounter between a modern Francis and a modern Dominic.” (Tradition holds that St. Francis and St. Dominic enjoyed an historic encounter.)
Initially, he was not aware that Dominic was being embraced by the pope until his son, Lucas, screamed, “It’s Dominic!” When Lucas said a second time, “The pope is holding Dominic,” Gondreau looked at the giant video screen and saw the two embracing.
“Wow! I was speechless, and I was moved to tears, along with Lucas,” said Gondreau.
Gondreau shared his thoughts on the experience and how it impacted his view of his son in a guest blog on Catholic Moral Theology.
Christiana, with Dominic at her side, was interviewed on national television about the extraordinary meeting between Pope Francis and Dominic, and her husband was interviewed on Rhode Island radio and television stations.
— Charles C. Joyce
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