Pope Francis Takes 12-Year-Old Ohio Boy With Down Syndrome for Ride in Popemobile
Pope Francis made the day of an Ohio boy with Down syndrome.
A boy from Ohio wanted one thing above all others. He wanted to be kissed by "that man in white."
That man happens to be Pope Francis. And 12-year-old Peter Lombardi, who has Down syndrome and has beaten cancer, hoped for a smooch from the head of the Catholic Church.
On Wednesday the child from Columbus got his wish, along with a ride in the Popemobile and a balloon hat.
"Oh my gosh, he spent the most time with the pope of anyone today," his mother, Brenda, told InsideEdition.com Wednesday via cellphone from Rome. "He just rode with it. That's what Pete does."
She and her family came to the Vatican on a pilgrimage, she said, to thank God for Pete's recovery from leukemia. He was diagnosed in 2015, and was undergoing chemotherapy when Pope Francis came to the States. The family had tickets to see him in Philadelphia, but couldn't go because Pete was too sick.
In the hospital, while he watched the papal service on TV, he was asked his fondest wish. "I want to be kissed by that man in white," he said.
Two years later, he got that wish, without ever knowing it was coming.
The family hired a travel guide in Italy. When they told Mountain Butorac about Peter's wish and his battle with cancer, Butorac said, "I may be able to do something about it," Brenda recounted.
Turns out, Butorac has a friend named Joanna, who is married to a member of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, a small force that guards the pope and the Apostolic Palace where he resides.
Joanna was able to get the Lombardis into the front row for Wednesday's weekly general audience. She told Brenda "to pick Pete up and yell and scream" so the pope would notice them. He not only noticed, he motioned for his security guards to bring Pete to him.
Pope Francis kissed the boy on the forehead and rumpled his hair. Pete tried to crawl over the Popemobile's railing, and the pope told his guards to bring the boy around to the back, where he scrambled aboard and sat down.
Then they took off. Brenda, her husband and Pete's three older brothers watched him drive away with the pope.
"I just stood there in shock and then I started crying." Then she sat down and prayed. "Lord, you never stop surprising us," she said.
Meanwhile, Pete was riding with the pope as he kissed babies, waved to the crowd, and picked up some gifts, including a balloon hat.
Pete asked for the latter, and the pope plopped it on his head.
In all, their tour lasted about 20 minutes.
Butorac posted video and photos of the holy event and word quickly spread about Pete and the pope.
"I showed him all the videos," Brenda said of her youngest son. "He was just like, 'That's me! That's me and the pope!'''
The family's next stop is Medjugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the Virgin Mary reportedly appeared in 1981 to a group of children.
"We are thanking the Lord for Pete's healing," his mother said.
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