Pope Francis blesses image of children killed in Maryland fire

By Elise Harris

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A statue of Jesus with children at the Pontifical North American College. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

After reading a letter while visiting Rome’s North American Seminary detailing the death of two young girls in a house fire, Pope Francis blessed their picture and a small statue to be given to their parents.

“The Holy Father read the story about what happened and he was very moved by it. He prayed for the family and for the girls, and in fact he even put his hand on their picture as a sign of his affection for them,” Father Aaron Qureshi told EWTN News May 2.

Fr. Qureshi was ordained a priest for the archdiocese of Washington D.C. after studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He is the one who wrote the letter at the request of a friend who is close to the family of the deceased.

The priest, who was present for Pope Francis’ May 2 visit to the seminary where he celebrated Mass in honor of Bl. Junipero Serra, also purchased a statue of Jesus embracing two children while on a trip to the Holy Land, which will be given to the girls’ parents.

The statue, which was blessed by the Pope when he stopped to pray for the girls, will be given to their parents on Mother’s Day as a sign that Jesus is now taking care of their daughters in heaven.

Lexi and Katie Boone, aged eight and seven, passed away Jan. 19, along with their cousins Charlotte and Wesley, aged eight and six, as well as their grandparents Don Pyle, 56, and Sandra Pyle 63 when a fire destroyed the Pyle’s large, waterfront home in Annapolis, Md.

Medical reports indicate that the six died from smoke inhalation and burns after a faulty electrical outlet ignited materials inside the largest room of the Pyle's 16,000 square foot home, including a 15 ft. Christmas tree.

Lexi and Katie are survived by their parents, Randy, 38, and Stacey, 34, who also have an infant son that was at home with them the night of the fire. Lexi had been preparing to make her first communion this spring.

For Pope Francis to stop and pray for the girls and their family was a concrete sign of the emphasis he often places on mercy, Fr. Qureshi said.

“One of the things about Pope Francis has been that he is a Pope who speaks about mercy all the time,” he noted, saying that even amid life’s tragedies we can be assured that “God is reaching out in mercy toward us.”

Fr. Qureshi expressed his belief that God reaches out “through people, and today he did that through the Holy Father, who reminded us of God’s mercy and his love for all of his children.”

In reference to the statue of Jesus and the children that Francis blessed, the priest noted that it is made from olive wood, like many works that come from the Holy Land.

“Jesus, our Lord, was a carpenter himself, so I found this statue of Jesus embracing the children, and I thought this would be an appropriate gift for the parents who lost their children,” he said.

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