Dubai: She was desperate for an audience with the pope — even just for a second no matter the cost — just so she could ask the Holy Father if he could pray for her family.
The name of the Colombian mystery girl whose courageous act of dodging security to meet Pope Francis at the mass on Tuesday morning has got everyone talking has been revealed as Valery; her friend who followed her seconds later was Gabriela.
The world watched as the eight-year-old in white shirt and pink pants flung security aside to hand-deliver a card to the Holy See.
In the video live-stream, which has now gone viral, Pope Francis motioned for the driver to stop upon seeing Valery escape security as she charged to the Popemobile. Encouraged by her friend's bold move, six-year-old Gabriela also ran to the pope.
There were in fact two letters. Valery was holding the one that she had written with Gabriela, who shared the same request with her. Gabriela was holding another one.
But both girls’ bravery was not without bases, Gabriela’s mother Jessica told Gulf News in an interview.
“The letter contained her sincere request, a petition for Papa Francis,” said Jessica, 26, who requested for the child’s petition to not be disclosed.
Two letters, two girls
“We always put God first in everything. We sought God’s mercy while writing each word in the letter,” she said.
Gulf News did not get a chance to speak to Valery’s mother, Andrea. But Jessica said both of them and their daughters have considered each other as family. They did not fly in to Dubai from Colombia just to see the Pope as was earlier reported due to a miscommunication.
Describing her daughter, Jessica said: “Gabriela is noble and kind. She has a strong character but is also tender-hearted.”
Even Pope Francis lauded the girl’s [Valery] fierce determination during his trip back to the Vatican on Tuesday.
“This child has a future!” the pontiff told reporters during the flight.
“I liked that. You have to have courage to do that.”
Little girls and boys running to the Pope or near the Pope during his public appearances is a common occurrence wherever he goes.
In 2018, a six-year-old boy from Argentina “interrupted” the religious leader on the Vatican stage during a papal audience.
Three years before, a five-year-old girl also ran to Pope Francis during a parade in the US to deliver a crayon-scrawled letter.
Editor’s Note: The story has been updated as the girls' identities were earlier interchanged unintentionally.
— With inputs from Jose Barros, Designer