Pope Francis will meet with a 5-year-old American girl whose dream is to see the pontiff before she goes blind.
Lizzy Myers from Bellville, Ohio, along with her parents and sister, will travel to Vatican City on March 30 and greet the pope in St. Peter’s Square at the end of his weekly audience there, according to Religion News Service.
Lizzy has Usher syndrome, an illness that leads to hearing and vision loss and has no cure, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
The event is sponsored by UNITALSI, an Italian organization that helps sick and disabled pilgrims travel to Catholic sites around the world. Turkish Airlines has donated airline tickets to help the family travel to Italy, and a hotel in Rome will put the family up for free.
“It is a moving story that also affected us emotionally,” Emanuele Trancalini, president of UNITALSI in Rome, told Religion News Service. “We have done everything possible for the Myers family to meet the pontiff and to make Lizzy’s parents understand they are not alone in their battle against this terrible disease. With our Progetto Bambini [Project Children] we often support families that have to face the drama of a child’s illness.”
UNITALSI, which also assists pilgrims in getting to the Catholic site at Lourdes, France, released a statement about the event on its website, although the Vatican has not independently confirmed the meeting.
“The little girl expressed her wish to see the pontiff at least once,” UNITALSI wrote on its website, according to Religion News Service. “This wish unleashed a wave of solidarity that is bringing Lizzy and her family to meet Pope Francis.”
Pope Francis is known for his interactions with Catholics around the world, especially the disabled and downtrodden. On March 24, he visited a refugee center outside Rome to wash and kiss the feet of migrants sheltering there, in a gesture that indicated his willingness to shelter and protect those fleeing from global conflict, according to The Associated Press.