Pope Francis Prays with Children Who Have Cancer at St. John Paul II’s Tomb

The Holy Father joined the children Wednesday just before taking off to World Youth Day in Krakow.

Pope Francis prays before the tombs of past popes in the grotto of St. Peter's Basilica, Nov. 2, 2015.
Pope Francis prays before the tombs of past popes in the grotto of St. Peter's Basilica, Nov. 2, 2015. (photo: L'Osservatore Romano.)

VATICAN CITY — Before taking off for World Youth Day in Krakow, Pope Francis prayed at the tomb of St. John Paul II alongside children who have cancer, and is bringing their prayers to Poland in order to ask the nation’s saint for their healing.

According to a July 26 statement from Italian nonprofit Peter Pan, which works with children who have cancer and their families, members of the association planned to “share a moment of prayer” with Pope Francis July 27 before he flew to Krakow for World Youth Day (WYD).

Scheduled to depart from Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 2 p.m., the Holy Father came to St. Peter’s Basilica at approximately 8:45 a.m., where he met with members of the Peter Pan association at the tomb of St. John Paul II to join them in a moment of prayer.

The group’s prayer celebration included Mass and the rosary at the saint’s tomb, led by Father Jarek Cielecki. The Holy Father intended to join the group for part of their prayer.

According to the statement, the group “will ask the Holy Father to bring with him to WYD the prayers of the families of children and adolescents who are ill, and to unite them to those of the youth, who come from all over the world, and to his own, so that with the intercession of St. John Paul II, these children can be restored to health.”

Founded in Rome in 2000, Peter Pan is a volunteer association and was born from the desire of a group of parents with children suffering from cancer who wanted to offer other families concrete support in facing the difficult experience of illness.

The association provides houses and welcome for families who don’t live in Rome, but who come to treat their children in the city’s hospitals, particularly the Bambino Gesu and the Policlinico Umberto I.

The association continues their work with the help of their nearly 200 volunteers, as well as through the donations of individuals and agencies.

During the celebration of Wednesday’s Mass, Father Cielecki, a Pole, lit two candles, one of which contains the image of the Merciful Jesus and was blessed by him in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, while the other shows the face of St. John Paul II and was blessed in the saint’s hometown of Wadowice.

In addition to Wednesday’s Mass and prayer with Pope Francis, intercessory prayer will take place at St. John Paul II’s tomb every day from July 28—31 so as to be “in communion with the Holy Father, who will be praying in Krakow with the youth of WYD,” as well as for all who are sick, including the families and children involved in Peter Pan.