MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- A little bit of kindness can go a long way when recovering from illness, Pope Francis told a group of young patients.
"Not only medicine but also 'kindness therapy' can make you live your time here with greater joy," the pope said Feb. 14.
The pope arrived ahead of schedule to the Federico Gomez children's hospital in Mexico City after a visit to Ecatepec, just north of Mexico City. First lady Angelica Rivera and 38 young cancer patients welcomed him to the hospital's oncology ward.
Making his way around the room, the pope greeted all the children individually, handing each one a rosary. He gave one boy what he said was his own rosary, blessing it and asking him to "take care of it for me and pray for me when you can."
The excitement was difficult for the young patients to contain and several stood up from their wheelchairs to embrace the pope. As he made his rounds throughout the hospital, the children handed him drawings. One patient surprised the pope with a heartfelt rendition of Schubert's Ave Maria.
Thanking them for their warm welcome, the pope said he was grateful for the opportunity to visit them and "share a little of your life and of those who work here."
The pope briefly told the children the story of Jesus' presentation in the temple and how the Gospel's story of Simeon's grandfatherly reaction is a lesson which teaches "two attitudes: gratitude and blessing."
"For my part -- and not only because of my age -- I feel I can relate well with these two lessons of Simeon," the 79-year-old pope said. "Entering here and seeing your eyes, your smiles, your faces has filled me with a desire to give thanks."
Hospital staff asked Pope Francis to help them launch a polio vaccine campaign, which he did with the willing cooperation of 5-year-old Rodrigo Lopez Miranda. The little boy opened his mouth wide as the pope squeezed the medicine from a dropper and said, "Swallow it." The boy rewarded the pope with a drawing and practically climbed into his arms for a hug.
The feeling of being cared for and accompanied is important in one's recovery, he said. The pope thanked the doctors, nurses and families present for their tenderness and care toward the little patients.
"Kindness therapy is so important; sometimes a caress can help so much to recuperate," he said.
Recalling the story of St. Juan Diego, whose sick uncle was healed by Mary, Pope Francis told the children to "ask her to give us the gift of her son, Jesus. Let us close our eyes and ask her to give us what our hearts seek today."