After meeting Pope Francis, he said, "It was like meeting Jesus!"
Born in May 2002 in Milan, little Pietro is the fifth child of Walter and Adele. At his birth, the doctors found that he was suffering from a lung malformation. The infant was doomed. The parents then asked Father Antonio Sangalli, a Carmelite, to baptize him right away. At this critical moment, the priest slid over a picture of Thérèse de Lisieux‘s parents, the Martins, who had lost four of their own children.
Walter and Adele decided to trust in the Lord and confide in Louis and Zélie Martin. And the incredible happened. (Full story here.) Although the doctors predicted he had only a few hours to live, a month later the small Pietro began to show signs of improvement. After a few weeks, he was officially cured.
The Alençon Shrine is dedicated to the Martins. Every year on July 12, it organizes a pilgrimage around this exemplary couple. The family of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus lived in Orne until Zélie’s death in 1877. It was then that Louis Martin decided to move to Lisieux with his daughters, near his beautiful family. In Alençon, for obvious reasons, people are interested in news related to the Martins and Thérèse.
And, after the healing of little Pietro Schilirò which made it possible to beatify the couple on October 19, 2008, this is another story that brought joy in recent weeks: Pietro’s meeting with Pope Francis on March 29 at the Vatican, at the audience with the deaf and blind. (Pietro has been deaf since age 3.) And the meeting was not trivial. While we know about Francis’ attachment to the saint of Lisieux, the meeting also overwhelmed the little boy who had received the miracle from Thérèse’s parents.
Here is the testimony of Pietro, who is now 12 years old:
When I learned that the Pope would meet with the deaf and their families, I asked Mom if we could go, too. We decided to write to the Pope to tell him that we would be very happy to greet him personally, but that if it was not possible, we would be happy to receive his blessing even from afar.
Suddenly, Dad’s phone started ringing: we were told that the Pope would meet us at the end of the audience. We were so excited! After about 1:30, the Pope arrived amid the songs of joy and hands raised in greeting. (This is how the deaf applaud.) After some testimonies, the Pope spoke.
Then he came down into the crowd to greet the people who were in front, including us! I was very excited and I asked Mom and Dad what I should say, because I could not find the words.
The Pope approached… he was so close to me! Mom and Dad greeted him, and Mom told him that we were praying for him. Then he hugged me and I burst into tears. He pulled me close to him and my hearing aid fell to the ground and the Pope bent down to pick it up! Dad told the Pope that I was healed by a miracle granted by the Lord through the intercession of the Martins, and he was very happy. He smiled and said, “I know there is another miracle that is under consideration. I am very happy!,” and with a big smile, he told me, “Now, now… don’t cry anymore!” And with a big hug, we said goodbye.
Then, before greeting everyone and leaving the room, he looked at me, pointed his finger at me, and gave me the “OK” sign! I still wanted to cry, but I was very happy because receiving the Pope’s embrace was like meeting Jesus! I will never forget it.