Pope Francis Welcomes Family with Anencephalic Baby

My heart is pounding and I am smiling ear to ear as I have just finished reading this article. Pope Francis, during the closing Mass of World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, welcomed a baby with anencephaly and her family during the offertory procession, giving all of them a blessing. Although most babies with anencephaly do not survive more than a few minutes following birth, this sweet baby girl has defied the odds and is still alive. Pope Francis met this child’s parents outside of a cathedral on Saturday and requested that they be a part of the offertory at Mass on Sunday. Although these parents could have legally aborted their baby, they chose to welcome their daughter as a gift from God instead.

It is hard to describe how it feels, as a parent of two babies with anencephaly myself, to read about another family’s journey and their tremendous encounter with Pope Francis. Most people have not even heard of anencephaly, in large part because so few parents choose to carry their babies to term after learning their child’s diagnosis. To see the word “anencephaly” in a news story, even though the article is on a pro-life website, carries a lot of meaning. After reading so much literature on anencephaly with phrases like “incompatible with life” and “fatal birth defect,” it is nice to read the words “sick” and “disability,” which somehow feel more accessible to me. Perhaps this doesn’t make any sense, but in my head it makes my babies seem more like just babies – babies who happen to who to be fatally ill, but still just babies – rather than a scientific category of persons.

In any case, Bravo! to Pope Francis for following the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and praise God for these parents and their beautiful witness.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, pray for us!

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  • Juris Mater

    Kat, I agree completely that “infant with a disability” is a world of difference. Annie, Lucy, and Therese are, and seem in my daily thoughts, more completely human and whole than any other children I know–we knew them only briefly in the flesh, but they are now supernaturally present with us through the communion of the saints. I have nearly forgotten the offensive and inaccurate sentiment toward babies with anencephaly in some medical and philosophical literature, considering them AT BEST “a scientific category of persons.” Thank you and Kellie and the other mothers of babies with neural tube defects for taking up your cross so we can know and love your babies, and for giving the world a greater awareness of the dignity and right to life of all people, even infants with severe disabilities.

  • buildingcathedralstexasmommy

    Kat, this is such a beautiful story. I have goosebumps and can only imagine how you feel. God bless you for being such a witness to life and it is so moving to see the Holy Father showing the world the Church’s true treasure…beautiful immortal souls that elevate us all to greater dignity and charity.

  • I also felt like my daughter Therese was put into a “scientific category” of personhood, rather than simply being a sick baby with a disability. I remember reading an e-mail from a medical person who described my baby as having a “fatal birth defect” and it upset me so much. I literally screamed to a friend, “why can’t she just write that my baby is sick, it feels like she is writing that my baby is less than human.” It is so special to see our Holy Father meet a precious child with anencephaly. May God bless that beautiful baby’s family. And JM, thank you for your kind sweet words. You are always so understanding and supportive of both Katrina and I, and it is one of the many things I love about you!

  • Bethany

    The other girls have put it so beautifully–I echo their thoughts. This was beyond heartwarming, Kat, thanks.

  • Kgirl

    Our son Alfred’s gravestone reads, “Some people only dream of angels, we held one in our arms”. We received our anencephaly diagnosis at 20 weeks and never could have imagined the journey ahead, of fear that became strength, sadness that became love and loneliness that was lost in a wealth of caring, support and understanding from family, friends and even strangers. When it came to the value of our son’s life I think my sister put it best. Medical science saw our son differently than Our Heavenly Father did. They saw a body that was “not viable” and Our Lord saw a SOUL that was PERFECT! We love you Alfred!!!

  • Kgirl, this was beautifully written. Thank you for commenting. Baby Alfred, pray for us!