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Picture of the week: Pope's touch of hope in world of despair

By Staff Reporter

Published 05/12/2015

Gently touching the boy's forehead and taking his hand, the Pope blessed the young patient
Gently touching the boy's forehead and taking his hand, the Pope blessed the young patient

We do not know the exact details of what has befallen the stricken child. But what registers instantly is that the boy is perilously ill. His arms are painfully thin, his rib cage rises and falls visibly with every breath, he seems to stare into the distance as if he might already be some place else. Evidently, in his short life, he has known suffering on an epic scale.

Now, though, people have come to help him.

The doctors and nurses of the children's hospital in Bangui, the capital of the conflict-ridden Central African Republic, are doing all they can for the young patient.

And, last Sunday, into this young life of pain and sorrow walked Pope Francis. Their meeting, by the very nature of such encounters, was fleeting but no less tender for that.

Gently touching the boy's forehead and taking his hand, the Pope blessed the young patient.

The visit to the hospital was unscheduled and came during the Catholic Church leader's three-nation Africa tour which also took in Kenya and Uganda.

He also brought medicine with him, donated by Rome's Bambino Gesu children's hospital.

The Pope's visit to the Central African Republic was the most dangerous destination of his tour but he had made clear that he wanted to bring light and hope to the region.

And everywhere he went in Africa he made sure that he visited the children of the slums and the families unable to afford sanitation.

On the plane on the way back to Rome, the Pope spoke about the way that humans - and the economies they create - can contribute to injustice and the imbalances in how the earth's resources are shared.

We can only speculate what the boy will have made of the visitor in flowing white robes who walked into his hospital ward and touched him, albeit briefly.

But the image captured forever here will further establish Pope Francis as a pontiff who speaks for the poor and the disenfranchised.

Belfast Telegraph

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