WASHINGTON: As Francis drew nearer and nearer in his open-sided popemobile and the crowd in Washington whooped, squealed and quivered, the little girl with black pigtails spotted her chance.
Her name was Sofia Cruz, and her story soon went around the world: how a five-year-old had the bravado to deliver a message to the pope on behalf of the United States’ millions of undocumented migrants.
In a flash, Sofia clambered over a metal barrier, darted out onto stately Constitution Avenue and headed straight for the pontiff — Secret Service agents be damned. Guards nabbed her about half-way there, but the pope waved for them to bring her to him. For her trouble, she got a gentle hoist, a hug and a kiss from Pope Francis himself.
And as the crowd roared with surprise and excitement, Sofia slipped the pontiff her letter.
Born on US soil to Mexican parents, Sofia traveled across the country as part of a group of a dozen faithful, her father among them, from Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles parish in Los Angeles.
“She handed the pope a letter asking him to support the drive to legalize undocumented migrants living in the United States,” the parish said when contacted by Agence France-Presse.
The spokesman was unable to confirm whether her own parents were undocumented.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper later spoke to the child, who told it she had learned by heart the contents of a letter, in Spanish and English.
“I want to tell you that my heart is sad,” it quoted her as saying. “All immigrants just like my dad help feed this country. They deserve to live with dignity. They deserve to live with respect. They deserve an immigration reform.”