The Keralite boy with cerebral palsy is among the 300 people to meet Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi.
Ten-year-old Steve Baiju cannot walk or speak, and he is hardly aware he is going to meet one of the tallest spiritual leaders of the world on Tuesday morning.
The Keralite boy with cerebral palsy is among the 300 people, including other determined children and elderly, who will have the rare opportunity to meet Pope Francis when he pays a private visit to St Joseph's Church in Abu Dhabi on February 5.
His parents, Keralite couple Baiju Varghese and Linu, said it was a God-sent opportunity for their son to be in the presence of the Holy Father. "We sincerely pray that the pope will touch our son. His healing touch, we hope, will make him better and improve his condition," Steve's mother Linu told Khaleej Times.
"He has undergone many surgeries and we have given him the best treatment possible. But he still cannot walk or even talk. I accept him the way God has made him. But as a mother, I hope and I pray ... that he will at least be able to speak and express himself," said Linu.
The pope's visit to the church will take place between 9.15am and 9.45am on Tuesday, giving him only about 15 minutes or less time to spend with a select few that will attend the event, Fr Gandolf Wild, Secretary to Bishop Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, confirmed in a statement.
About 300 parishioners from all nine churches in the UAE and people from all walks of life will meet the pope. "We expect that Pope Francis will pray with those that have gathered in the church and bless them before he leaves for the papal mass at the Zayed Sports City at 10.30am," said Fr Wild. "Pope Francis is often spontaneous and does things unexpectedly, he may personally greet anyone present there who catches his attention," he added.
Steve's parents are hoping their son will be the chosen one.
Steve, who has been confined to a bed since birth, will be rolled on a specially equipped wheelchair by his mother on Tuesday morning to St Joseph's Church.
"We have to be there by 8.15am. I will have to keep feeding him as we wait. I am worried how he will react to the crowd. He is not used to it. He will get irritated in the presence of people and with the noise around," said the mother.
But Linu, a trained physiotherapist, knows how to take care of her son who was born with the neurological condition. "We knew he was not a normal child at the time he was born. He has undergone surgeries and treatment for many years. But he still cannot move because of muscle stiffness and uses his bed to move around within the house," Linu said.
Over the years, the Keralite couple said they have learned to accept and understand his needs. "He has a routine and it is important to stick to that. Our biggest problem is when he cries loudly, we do not know what exactly he needs or whether he is in pain. That hurts us.
"He has to be fed at regular intervals. And he constantly wants to listen to music, even when he goes to sleep. So, to step out into a crowd on Tuesday is a big deal for him, and a big day for us," said his father Baiju, who works as a facility manager.
The couple has two other children, Chris, 6, and Jennifer Maria, 2.
Ryan Antony, 9, who has autism, is another child who will meet Pope Francis, and his mother said "it is beyond belief". "It is a huge blessing and our entire family is praying and thanking God," Ryan's mother Desymol Joseph said.
Pope Francis will arrive in the UAE today on a three-day state visit - the first ever to the region by the head of the Catholic Church.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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