An American boy's unforgettable moment with the pope

(CBS News) ROME - Paul and Christina Gondreau of Providence, Rhode Island believe their special son has a special mission -- to teach people how to love. There has been an outpouring of love since the world first met Dominic last Sunday. And the Gondreaus had an Easter they will never forget.

As Pope Francis made his first pass around St Peter's Square, an usher in the area reserved for disabled people moved Christina Gondreau and her son Dominic up closer.

"I feel like the Holy Spirit moved him in the sense that he had it in his head that Dominic was going to meet the pope," she said.

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The usher helped Christiana lift Dominic -- and the image of the pope embracing and kissing the eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy flashed around the world.

Dominic Gondreau, who is eight-years-old and has cerebral palsy, was born three-and-a-half months premature and weighed just over one pound.
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"It was really, really powerful," she recalled, "almost like a crescendo of love. 'This is going to happen and we're going to make it happen.' It was beautiful."

Gondreau admitted she was a little teary-eyed. "I wasn't sobbing," she said, "I was really overcome with joy, so there was a part of me that was sort of crying little bit and laughing at the same time. After that moment I just kept saying grazie, 'Grazie, grazie.'"

It was a moment the other members of the family deep in the crowd almost missed. Dominic's 12-year-old brother, Lucas,was looking at the giant screens.

"I was thinking that kind of looks like Dominic," he said. "And then I said, 'The pope is holding Dominic!' It was completely amazing, dumbfounding."

His father Paul, a visiting professor of theology, was busy scanning the crowd. "And then I looked up at the monitor, the Jumbotron," he said, "and beheld the moment and was moved to tears."

And 16-year-old Alena Maria Gondreau said: "I actually yelled at the person next to me, who didn't even speak English, I said, 'That's my brother!'"

All morning Dominic, who weighed just over one pound when he was born three-and-a half months premature, was agitated and uncomfortable. When Pope Francis handed him back, he was calm.

"It felt like a little kiss from heaven," said Christiana Gondreau.

And with a smile like that, who can argue?

  • Allen Pizzey

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