LIFESTYLE

Pope Francis, Mexican first lady moved to tears with cancer-stricken girl's Ave Maria

Pope Francis’ Valentine Day schedule in Mexico City included a stop at a pediatric hospital, where a 15-year-old cancer patient brought him to the verge of tears with her rendition of Shubert’s Ave Maria.

The girl, Alexia Guarduno, sang a cappella while sitting on her wheelchair as the pontiff and a delegation of dignitaries – including Mexican’s first lady – stood in the hallway during the stunning, two-minute performance.

The first lady, Angelica Rivera, shed a few tears.

Pope Francis kissed and hugged Guarduno, who has a type of bone cancer and has an operation scheduled for the end of the month.

Guarduno was among the dozens of children who came out to greet the Argentinian pontiff with gifts and various shows of appreciation.

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Another girl presented Francis with a handmade Valentine's Day card with a big heart on the front. "You made this?" Francis asked as he accepted it. "Gracias [Thank you]."

The pope bent down and kissed dozens of sick kids, playfully mussing the hair of the older ones. Some posed for selfies with the pope. Several rose from their wheelchairs to embrace him. Francis also played doctor to one little boy, administering medicine from a dropper.

"I thank all the people who help [these kids] live this period with more joy, not only with medication but with “caretherapy” — he said in a short speech, using a made-up word, “cariñoterapia,” in Spanish.

"I thank God for giving me the opportunity to be able to come and visit, meet with you and your families in this hospital; to be able to share a little bit of your lives,” he said.

The pope makes a point of stopping at children's hospitals during his foreign trips, both to visit with the kids and to thank the staff for caring for them. While parts of the encounters are televised, Francis also visits bedridden patients in private for more personal encounters.

With reporting by the Associated Press.

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