Vatican City, Jan 8, 2023 / 08:00 am
The infant son of former Catholic News Agency editor David Uebbing received a farewell kiss on his forehead from Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 27, 2013, at the plaza of St. Peter’s Basilica before the pope’s final general audience.
“To see him today in the final hours of his papacy and to have him hold my son in his arms was a special kind of blessing, and a consolation from the Lord,” Uebbing’s wife, Jenny, the mother of the fortunate infant, John Paul, told CNA on Feb. 27, 2013.
“I asked the Lord to help me truly experience this morning, this last event with Pope Benedict, and to not be anxious about whether we would get a good spot or be able to see him drive by,” she said. “I had so much peace while we were waiting for the audience to begin, and I just prayed that if we were meant to get close to His Holiness, the Lord would arrange the details. And he did.”
Jenny Uebbing had come to the plaza at 7:30 in the morning with her sister and her two sons, John Paul — who is now almost 11 — and Joey. On her blog, “Mama needs coffee,” she described three hours of “pressing crowds and stalwartly holding our position against the barricade, hoping against hope to catch a glimpse of our beloved Holy Father.”
David Uebbing, John Paul’s father and former office head of CNA’s Rome bureau, described how “a security guard offered to pass him to Archbishop [Georg] Gänswein when the popemobile came by.”
Gänswein at the time was head of the Prefecture of the Papal Household and was in the popemobile along with Benedict XVI. He supported John Paul while the pope embraced him and gave a him a fatherly kiss.
Jenny Uebbing said that after John Paul was passed back to her, the Roman pontiff passed by their spot in the crowd.
“We locked eyes for a moment and I was able to tell him ‘thank you.’ That was all I could have asked for, to personally thank him not only for the moment of grace when he kissed my little son, but for his total gift of self to the Church,” she told CNA at the time.
Her sister Christina also described her own experience of sharing a glance with the Holy Father.
“It felt like I was looking at Jesus, in a way,” she said. “When I looked into his eyes, I didn‘t see only the man, the pope, but also the One he serves. There was so much love and kindness in his eyes.”
Pope Benedict holds a special place in Jenny Uebbing‘s heart, as “the Holy Father who invited me home to the faith of my childhood. In a sense, he held open the door of the Church and welcomed me inside again,” she said.
David Uebbing told CNA that “my wife and I were overjoyed at the pope‘s kindness and the gentle love you could see on his face when he kissed John Paul.”
The Uebbings moved to Rome in early January 2013. “Before today we would have already said that Pope Benedict made our lives a lot more exciting than we thought he would, but when our youngest son was kissed by him today we were speechless,” David Uebbing said.
For a child of only 10 months, John Paul already had quite the papal connections. Aside from being kissed on the forehead by the vicar of Christ, he was named for Pope Benedict‘s predecessor. Also, he was born on April 19, 2012, the seventh anniversary of Pope Benedict‘s accession as bishop of Rome. John Paul now has four younger siblings, the youngest of whom turned 3 in November and is named Benedict. One more sibling is expected in March.
This story was originally published Feb. 28, 2013. It was updated by CNA on Jan. 4, 2023.