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Pope Francis kisses boy with cerebral palsy at Philadelphia airport

The pope had arrived at Philadelphia International Airport minutes before when Sister Regina Plunkett spotted 10-year-old Michael Keating sitting in a wheelchair.

By Elizabeth Shim
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Pope Francis kisses boy with cerebral palsy at Philadelphia airport
Pope Francis arrives at Independence Hall on September 26, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Pope Francis stopped to kiss a boy with cerebral palsy in Philadelphia, causing the boy's parents to be overwhelmed with emotion.

"It's just a dream come true. Unbelievable. Unbelievable. That's the word I just keep saying over and over again," said the boy's father, Chuck Keating, NBC 10 reported.

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Keating, the director of Bishop Shanahan High School's marching band in Downingtown, Pa., had organized a performance of music for the pope, including the theme song from the movie Rocky, "Gonna Fly Now."

The Keating family said they were happy to simply catch a glimpse of Pope Francis, and did not expect the pontiff to leave his car to bless 10-year-old Michael, who was born at 29 weeks with a twin brother, and suffered a number of complications at a young age.

RELATED Full Text: Homily of Pope Francis in Philadelphia

The pope had arrived at Philadelphia International Airport minutes before when Sister Regina Plunkett who was in the car with Pope Francis spotted Michael sitting in a wheelchair.

"The Holy Father's eyes opened very wide and then he said 'Stop the car!'" said Plunkett, president of Bishop Shanahan High School. "He got out of the car very quickly, came over and saw Michael."

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Michael's mother Kristin Keating fought back tears as Pope Francis leaned in and kissed the boy ailing from cerebral palsy. Chuck Keating said he had to turn away.

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Kristin Keating told press her family's life has been enriched by her son's disability.

"This is just another one of those experiences. Of course it tops all others, but as a result of Michael's disability our life has changed for the better. Sometimes people don't understand that, but it really has," she said, adding that the pope had left a "big smile" on her son's face.

Pope Francis is no stranger to random kisses. The Washington Post reported the pope welcomed an unexpected hug and kiss from a man in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, and that the 78-year-old pontiff has stopped his motorcade to bless and kiss infants at a tarmac at Maryland's Andrews Air Force Base.

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