On June 3, 2013, Pope Francis welcomed 2,000 pilgrims from the Province of Bergamo, birthplace of Pope John XXIII, to Rome on the 50th anniversary of his death.
Among the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica that evening was the Rocca family from the small town of Osio Sopra, with their three-year-old daughter Alice Maria. The perky little girl with her short bobbed hair hoped she’d have a chance to see Pope Francis in person; and she was not disappointed. When the pope passed through the crowd, offering smiles and hugs to children in the crowd, he stopped to kiss Alice Maria.
Back at home in northern Italy, Alice Maria—with help from her grandmother Mariarosa—wrote a letter to Pope Francis. In it, she asked the pontiff to bless herself, her family, and the nursery school she attends.Alice Maria’s mother Tonya thought that would be the end of it; but on July 5, an envelope addressed to Alice Maria arrived in the mail, postmarked “Secretariat of State, Vatican City, Rome.” Inside the envelope was a letter from the Holy Father himself, answering her requests. Pope Francis wrote:
“The Holy Father thanks you for your kind thoughts and invokes upon you the heavenly intercession of Blessed John XXIII, so that you can grow up happy and serene in friendship with Jesus and, while asking you to pray for him, imparts from his heart to you, to your parents and to your grandmother the Apostolic Blessing, gladly extending it to your dear ones, with a particular thought for your friends and teachers at the daycare.”