A family from Philadelphia is thanking God for sending a "miracle from the heaven" after their terminally ill baby daughter was healed following a kiss from Pope Francis.
According to Philly Voice, two months after her birth, Gianna Masciantonio was diagnosed with juvenile xanthogranuloma, a tumour in her brain stem. Medical experts declared her as "basically gone" after many rounds of tests, chemotherapy and surgery. In fact, the doctors only gave Gianna just a few weeks to live, according to Philadelphia Inquirer.
Her father, Joey Masciantonio, said that for many months, he and his wife, Kristen, endured the scary "15 steps" from their bed to Gianna's crib every night, always hoping they'd see her smiling face "but fully prepared for the worst."
A day after Gianna's first birthday, Don Asper, a family friend who worked for the FBI arranged special passes so the family could welcome Pope Francis during his visit to the state.
On that special day, the Masciantonios joined members of the FBI and their families to watch as the papal motorcade came down the street.
"Everyone around the Masciantonios waved and shouted, trying to get the pope's attention, then pointing to Gianna and screaming Francis' name," Philly Voice reveals.
Eventually, the popemobile stopped in front of the Masciantonios, and a papal security official grabbed Gianna from the crowd and passed her up to the pontiff.
Pope Francis, who was unaware of Gianna's condition, stopped to kiss her head - just centimetres away from the site of the tumour. Since that moment, Gianna's tumor has miraculously shrunk, and today, the little girl, now 19 months, is nearing a full recovery.
While the family does not credit the papal kiss with healing Gianna, they do believe the love and support they experienced following the meeting gave them hope to believe she would overcome her illness.
"His kiss didn't heal Gianna," said Masciantonio. "The miracle was all the people that came together... This wasn't just some miracle that day. It was hope... I don't know if I can truly explain the feeling."
In an earlier interview with CBS Philadelphia, Joe and his wife, Kristen, praised and thanked God for the healing of their daughter.
"I think this is all from God. I believe the Pope is a messenger from God," Joe said. The parents also expressed that they can't wait to tell Gianna how her brain tumor had healed.
Pope Francis, after hearing news of the recovery, signed a portrait of him kissing Gianna and has asked to be updated regarding her progress, according to Metro.
This is not the first time the Vatican leader has been credited with performing a miracle. Last March, during a trip to Naples, Francis venerated a vial of blood belonging to the martyred Neapolitan patron St. Gennaro. The dry blood reportedly turned to liquid after the pontiff prayed over it and kissed it.
"The blood has half liquified, which shows that Saint Januarius loves our pope and Naples," declared the Archbishop of Naples, Crescenzio Sepe.
Then, in 2014, an American couple from Arizona claimed that Pope Francis healed their 3-month-old daughter's heart condition after the pontiff held and blessed her during Easter proceedings at the Vatican.
"It seems like it was really meant to happen," said Lynn Cassidy, according to news station KPNX. "And it's as close to a miracle as we'll ever see, I'm sure. I mean it's possible that it closes just over time, but when you see the picture that the professional photographer took, his hand is here and he's a servant of God."