ROME— Every Wednesday after his weekly General Audience, Pope Francis takes time to greet some of the “VIP” guests located to the side of the stage in St. Peter’s Square, which usually means the elderly and infirm.
This week, among those present was a 13-year old quadriplegic Argentine writer who was in Italy to receive a prestigious literary award.
Her name is Veronica Cantero Burroni, from Campana, out the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Francis’ former archdiocese. On Monday she’d been to the southern Italian city of Naples to receive the Elsa Morante Award for her book, The Shadows Thief.
Also awarded in the ceremony was Italian journalist and long-time Vatican-watcher Andrea Tornielli, for the book he co-wrote with Pope Francis, “The Name of God is Mercy.”
At her very young age, and from the wheelchair she’s been confined to since she was born in 2002, she has written five books.
Veronica was a triplet, and complication in the birth caused her and one of her brothers neurological damage which affects her motor skills, which hasn’t kept her from writing and publishing books since she was eight-years-old.
When she met the pope on Wednesday, she presented him with a copy of The Shadows Thief, and in classic Argentine-style, a hug.
According to Tornielli, Cantero dedicated the book to Francis with the following words:
“Dear Pope Francis, I dedicate this book to you to thank you for everything you’ve taught me! You taught me to use my glass eye and my flesh eye, because this is a dream for me, a dream that I live from now on. I thank God for this, and for everything.”
The eye reference comes from Francis’ visit to Cuba last September, where, speaking with local youth, he mentioned a “Latin American writer” who used to say: “People have two eyes, one made of flesh and one made of glass. With the eye of flesh, we see what we look at. With the eye made of glass, we see what we dream of.”
Speaking to the Argentine newspaper La Nanción, Cantero said the pope said he’d been told she’s a really good writer, and as usual, asked her to pray for him.
“From the hug he gave me, I realized that he loved me,” she said.
Before greeting Cantero, Francis spoke about humility, saying it’s God’s “weakness.”
“God has one weakness: He has a weakness for the humble ones. In front of a humble heart, God opens his heart fully,” he told the 15,000 pilgrims gathered for his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
“If God prefers humility, it is not to debase ourselves. Humility is rather the necessary condition in order to be raised up by him so as to experience the mercy that comes to fill our emptiness,” the pope said.