'Miracle' baby with brain tumour makes progress after being kissed by Pope


This is the moment last September when Gianna Masciantonio, terminally ill with a brain tumour, was kissed on the head outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia by Pope Francis.

More than six months later, Gianna is not only still alive, she is much improved.

Her family refuse to talk of a "miracle", but that does not stop others from doing so.

Soon after she was born, Gianna was diagnosed with juvenile xanthogranuloma, a rare brain stem tumour.

Security services helped her family obtain passes so they could meet the Pope when he visited Philadelphia last year. When her father passed her up to him as he passed for a blessing, the Pope stopped and kissed her on the back of her head, close to the site of the tumour.

Just weeks later, a scan showed the tumour seemed to have shrunk.

The family do not claim a miraculous healing but do talk of how the Pope's kiss brought them hope.

"It gave us strength," her father Joey Masciantonio told Eyewitness News. "That kiss meant more to my family than anyone could ever imagine, "

The Pope has asked to be kept in touch with her progress and has signed a photograph of him kissing Gianna.

And only this week, as the city continues to take the family to its heart, Gianna's brother Dominic, aged five, was sworn in as an honorary deputy marshall for a day.

It was FBI Special Agent Don Asper who helped the family catch the Pope's attention in Market Street.

"No one there on the street knew anything was wrong with Gianna. They didn't know her condition. The Pope certainly didn't know that she had an inoperable brain tumour," Asper told Eyewitness.

Gianna is currently coming to the end of her latest chemotherapy.