"He is Argentinian. Undisciplined," joked the religious leader during the general audience at the Vatican about his 7-year-old fellow citizen as the little boy’s mother and sister tried to make him return to his seat.
"Let him be, let him be," Pope Francis said to Wenzel Eluney’s worried mother who revealed to the Supreme Pontiff that her child was in the autism spectrum and was unable to speak, as El País reported.
Eluney was sitting at the first row of seats in front of the Paul VI Audience Hall in Rome when he suddenly stepped into the stage where the Pope was addressing the audience next to Archbishop Georg Gaenswein.
The curious child felt drawn to the colorful uniform of a Swiss Guard officer standing next to the archbishop and escaped from his mother to play around him. Read more on our Twitter account @amomama_usa
Pope Francis didn’t seem to mind the playful interruption, and he asked the boy for a kiss before making the jokeful remark to Gaenswein, who also appeared to be amused by the unexpected intervention.
The 81 head of the Roman Catholic Church let the boy be and he used the occasion to share a reflection that came to his mind in presence of Eluney with the Spanish-speaking people who attended the act.
“This child cannot speak. He is mute. But he can communicate. And he has something that made me think: He's free. Undisciplinedly free, but he's free. It made me think, 'Am I so free before God?'"
-Pope Francis, El País, November 28, 2018.
The close to 7.000 people crowd responded to the Pope’s kind words with a loud applause, as the religious man asked for the grace of God to help the child be able to speak.
Eluney’s parents, both of them from Argentina but living in Italy for years talked to the press and laughed about the entire thing, revealing that she had told her son to go say hello to the Pope, never expecting that he was going to obey.
The mother shared that she can never get Eluney to do what she asks him to, so she was the first surprised when the child approached the Pope the way he did.
Eluney and his family are residents of the Italian city of Verona, and his parents are part of the Ants Onus organization, formed by parents of children in the autism spectrum living in the aforementioned city.
Back in April, another child stole the attention of everybody who went to see the Pope at the St. Paul of the Cross Parish in Rome.
Many children were present at the meeting, and Pope Francis offered them the opportunity to ask him anything they wanted to know about.
A boy identified only as Emmanuel was overcome with emotion the moment he took the microphone and stood in front of the Supreme Pontiff. As the child started to back away, the Pope told him to ask his question in private.
After the child approached the Pope, hugged him, and made his question in his ear, Emmanuel agreed to share his question with the crowd.
"My father died a short time ago. He was an atheist, but he baptized his four children. He was a good man. Is dad in Heaven?” asked the crying boy, and the Pope’s answer didn’t leave a dry eye in the house.