There are some encounters you will never be able to erase from your memory. For the Masciantonio family one such memory occurred the day their baby daughter met Pope Francis in Philadelphia. By a stoke of luck the family got a call from a friend, Donny Asper, an FBI agent who was helping with security for the pope that day. He told them to get downtown as soon as possible and the family didn’t hesitate.

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Donny was eager for his friends Joey and Kristen to make it there in the hopes that their baby girl Gianna would meet the pope. Joey and Kristen are both devout Catholics and hoped that a meeting with the pope could help their baby girl, who has an extremely rare blood disorder along with a tumor. But the family never actually expected it to happen with the swarms of people in the downtown area all hoping to do the same. In fact the family had first hesitated of the idea since Gianna’s immune system was so low, fearing it would deteriorate further in the crowd. After Kristen and the doctors insistence they made the decision to go and boy are they happy they did.

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The family made their way to the historic James S. Byrne Courthouse on Market Street, knowing that the pope was due to pass in that same area. Once Joey saw the pope making his way towards them he held up baby Gianna as high as he could getting the attention of a security guard who then grabbed her and brought her over to the pope. The next sight mom and dad witnessed would be one they’d never forget. There, among thousands of people, the pope planted a kiss on baby Gianna’s head. After the euphoria of the moment passed the family went back into their normal routine of doctors visits for their daughter – but just six weeks later new scans of her condition brought the entire family to tears. Gianna’s tumor had significantly shrunk. Whether people want to believe it’s a miracle or not the family says the pope’s kiss was not the miracle that saved her but that “The kiss was God’s work, that’s for sure.”

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