Age 12 Boy with Down Syndrome Gets Surprise From Pope Francis After Beating Leukemia


In April 2015, Peter Lombardi was a 9-year-old boy with Down Syndrome and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Peter may have been a young child facing great obstacles, but his faith was even greater.

His family had tickets to attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. It was their chance to see Pope Francis while he was in the United States in 2015, but the timing prevented them from going.

Peter ended up in the hospital where he watched the pope on TV during chemotherapy rather than in person at the event.

A Make-A-Wish Foundation representative visited Peter during this time, and the young boy shared a wish nobody expected.

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His mother, Brenda Lombardi, told CNN, “Peter said, ‘I want the man in the white outfit to kiss me like he’s kissing all those kids.’ I said, ‘Pete, your wish is to get a kiss from Pope Francis?'”

Make-A-Wish learned that Peter would also enjoy a more realistic wish of going to Disney World to battle Darth Vader with lightsabers. His wish to be kissed by the pope was not over, though.

Peter’s family has attributed his subsequent recovery from cancer as evidence of God’s healing. The blessings continued as Peter, now 12 years old, and his family went on a pilgrimage this Holy Week to praise God for the miraculous healing.

They were in Rome on Palm Sunday with Mountain Butorac as their guide. Lombardi mentioned her son’s wish back when he had cancer to be kissed by the pope, and Butorac actually had the connections to give Peter the best chance at making his wish come true.

Butorac’s friend, Joanna, is married to a guard in the Pontifical Swiss Guard. She coached the family to yell to get the pope’s attention while lifting up Peter.

She even helped the family get front row spots on March 28 during the weekly general audience. Pope Francis noticed Peter, welcomed him over, and kissed him!

Lombardi shared with CNN, “We never thought it would come to fruition. You can’t come to Rome and expect Pope Francis to kiss your child among the millions of people.”

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The pope then invited Peter to sit in the Popemobile where Peter got to ride for 20 minutes. The once-in-a-lifetime experience of being with Pope Francis as he waved at the crowd, kissed babies, and received gifts felt like an overflow of God’s blessings on Peter and his family.

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Carolyn Fultz is a former contributor for Liftable Media. She holds a B.A. in Communication from Hope College.
Carolyn Fultz is a former contributor for Liftable Media. She holds a B.A. in Communication from Hope College. Carolyn's writing has been featured in both online and print media, including Just Between Us magazine. She resides in Phoenix with her husband and children.
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