Dubai: Bjiu Kunnel Baby, a Dubai-based Indian Catholic, says he is truly blessed. In March 2017, his family had planned a special trip to Rome just to listen to their beloved “Papa” at the Vatican.
Having obtained passes to the Papal Audience, a weekly gathering of believers at St Peter’s Square, Baby along with his wife Rosy Mathew, nine-year-old son Chris and daughter Catherine, 4, were at the venue by 4am on March 22, four hours before the gates opened for the 10am audience. There were hundreds of others already there by then. But somehow, the Baby family managed to snake their way to the front row, in the hope that they could get a better glimpse of Pope Francis when his convoy would drive past them.
Taking their positions just behind the barricades, Baby and his family considered themselves lucky and were thankful as they eagerly waited for the Pope’s arrival.
“But what lay in store was something we could never have imagined even in the wildest of dreams,” recalled Baby.
Yet to come to terms with the surreal sequence of events when the Papal Audience began, he said, “As the Popemobile approached us, I was holding Catherine up and shouting “Caro Papa, Caro Papa” (dear Pope, dear Pope in Italian). Suddenly, Pope Francis signalled his convoy to stop. His security head Domenico Gianni grabbed Catherine who was hoisted above my head. He brought her to the pontiff, who lunged forward to kiss her on the head and grant her his blessing.”
The gesture left Baby and his family dumbfounded. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My wife could not control her tears. We were completely lost for words and filled with deep gratitude. It was nothing short of a miracle. Catherine, of course, will understand what a big deal it is when she grows older.”
Still overwhelmed after two years, Baby said, “Normally, you would capture something like this on camera, but my wife and I were too busy savouring the moment. As I took Catherine back in my arms, people around us started reaching for our little angel. They were thankful to her because the Pope had stopped to bless her, which meant they could also get a good, long glimpse of him. They were people from different parts of the world. Fortunately, some of them had taken photographs of Catherine being blessed by the Pope and they were kind enough to email them to us.”
He said, “We all know Papa loves everyone unconditionally, regardless of who they are, where they come from or what their beliefs are. But we had a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the Vatican. As Father Dr Arun Kalamattathil of the Palaghat Diocese, a family friend who helped us get into the Papal Audience said, it was a heavenly blessing.”
Baby said he is now counting down to the Papal Mass in Abu Dhabi on February 5. “We are from Kerala and are active members of the Syro Malabar Catholic Church. I am a parent representative for the Syro Malabar Cathechism. My wife sings in the church choir and Chris is also involved with the choir and altar service. We feel doubly fortunate that we are getting this opportunity to see Papa again, this time in the UAE itself. We are grateful to the Rulers for making this possible.”
‘I feel blessed’
Catherine, 6, is a KG 2 student of GEMS Our Own English High School is Al Warqa’a, Dubai. When the Pope blessed her, she was just four and had no idea about the significance of what transpired. Today, two years on, she has some inkling.
“I feel blessed,” she said.