Rhode Island parents moved to tears after Pope Francis hugs their disabled son

A Rhode Island couple says they were speechless and moved to tears when Pope Francis hugged and kissed their disabled 8-year-old son in St. Peter's Square on Easter Sunday.

Paul and Christina Gondreau of Johnston and their five children attended Easter Mass at the Vatican. An usher directed the boy, Dominic, who has cerebral palsy, and his mother to an area designated for handicapped children, said Paul Gondreau, a theology professor at Providence College who is teaching this semester in Rome.

When the pope's vehicle arrived, the same usher motioned to the driver to stop and with the help of the mother, held the boy up to Pope Francis, who took the boy in his arms and kissed him, The boy appeared to try to bring his right arm around to embrace the pontiff.

Videos and photos of the pontiff standing in the "popemobile" and holding Dominic were transmitted worldwide. Pope Francis also hugged and kissed other children as he greeted the crowd after Mass.

A story on the Providence College website says Paul Gondreau called the moment "an incredibly moving encounter."

He says his son teaches him daily lessons about how to love.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report