Pope Francis embraces son of PC faculty member
It was an Easter Sunday surprise no one could have predicted.
When Providence College professor Dr. Paul Gondreau, of Johnston, traveled to Rome with about 30 students and his family several weeks ago, he never dreamed he'd make a memory like this.
His son, Dominic, suffers from cerebral palsy, is confined to a wheelchair, and has severe mobility limitations.
But the confident young boy is now famous, and beaming from ear to ear, after getting a heartfelt hug and kiss from Pope Francis while he toured St. Peters Square near the Vatican on Easter Sunday.
"What a truly moving moment," Gondreau said over the phone from Italy.
In an interview on CNN Monday morning, Gondreau's wife Christina gushed, "It really feels like a kiss from God."
Christina and Paul Gondreau are glowing after the experience.
In the hours since the Easter Sunday encounter, the moving photo and video of the encounter have both been broadcast and printed around the world.
"Just to be in that crowd, and be the one to have your child kissed by the Pope is really truly a gift. What an Easter Sunday," Christina Gondreau said.
Christina Gondreau said the memorable hug and kiss would never have been possible without the helpful ushers in St. Peter's Square.
"There was a very kind usher who seated us named Augustino, and I think he got it in his head that Dominic needed to be kissed by the Pope," she said.
Paul Gondreau shared his version of the story with NBC 10 over the phone from Rome.
The usher asked my wife to take Dominic out of his chair, and follow him. So the Pope came by, and he actually came by twice, the first time he was actually looking in the opposite direction, and they didn't get up close to him, but they were still impressed," he said.
"But then when we got wind that the Pope was coming around a second time, he (Augustino) basically half held him with me and the ushers. Then the other ushers really got in on the action, and they almost just forced, well not forced but really got the 'Pope Mobile' to stop, because he looked like he wasn't going to stop again. And then Augustino just raised him up. And the Pope began kissing and hugging my son," Christina Gondreau said during an interview with CNN.
And it was that kind interaction lead to the incredible moment, captured on camera forever.
Not able to be up in the handicapped seating section with his wife, Paul Gondreau and his four other children were each thrilled when they found out what had happened with Dominic and the Pope.
"With my wife's help they lifted my son up to the Pope, and of course the whole world has seen the very moving video and still photographs of the embrace the kiss and the hug that Pope Francis gave my son after that," Paul Gondreau said.