Pope Francis made a short, unscheduled stop Wednesday en route to the White House in his trademark Popemobile. While the pontiff's motorcade made its way past cheering crowds, one young girl decided to break away from the pack.
Coming from Los Angeles to see the pope in Washington, D.C., 5-year-old Sophie Cruz managed to cross police barriers and make a break for Francis. After initially being blocked by one of the pontiff's security guards, the pope beckoned for Cruz to be brought forward. Once given the official OK, she was promptly scooped up and beelined to the pope.
Cruz is the daughter of two undocumented immigrants and wanted to meet the pope to ask for help keeping them in the country. Cruz and her sister are American citizens, the Washington Post reported, but her parents are not.
"She lives it every day," Sophie's father, Raul Cruz, told the Washington Post. "She sees family get separated, and we always tell her the truth when she asks why."
After getting her papal hug and kiss, Cruz handed Francis a yellow T-shirt (which read in Spanish: "Pope: rescue DAPA, so the legalization would be your blessing") and an envelope containing a letter and a drawing with a caption that, according to the Washington Post's translation from Spanish, read: "My friends and I love each other no matter our skin color."
Cruz hopes her letter and gesture can help bring about immigration reform in the U.S. When asked what she hoped the pope would do Cruz replied, "To speak with the president and the Congress for legalizing all the immigrants and my parents too."
However, the seemingly impromptu break out wasn't as unplanned as it may have seemed. After being inspired by a similar moment in Rome, Alicia Flores, executive director of La Hermandad Hank Lacayo Youth and Family Center in Los Angeles, told the Washington Post her organization chose Sophie, with her parents' permission, to deliver the drawing and note to Francis and hear their message. While meeting the pope might be a daunting task for the average person, Cruz didn't have any problem approaching the leader of the Catholic Church.
"God made me like that," she said, according to the Washington Post.
The moment quickly went viral and has already garnered more than 45,000 likes and 17,000 shares on Fox 5's Facebook page.
The moment was somewhat typical of Francis, who has made a name during his pontificate as a pope of the people. In contrast to his more remote predecessor, Benedict XVI, Francis has dedicated much of his ecclesiastical capital to highlighting the plight of the poor and underrepresented around the world.
On Thursday, the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics will sit for lunch with 300 members of the Washington, D.C., homeless community, instead of attending a similar meal with city lawmakers at the same time.
"We expect [the pope] to be like a maitre d' at a restaurant," Erik Salmi, communications director for the Washington branch of Catholic Charities, told Washington City Paper. "There's not a lot that's scripted; rather, we want him to have as much time to greet people [and] spend time with them as possible. He's big with people on the margins of society, those that tend to get overlooked."
The pope is currently on day two of a six-day visit to the United States, making him the fourth pope in Catholic history to make the journey.
Sept. 23, 2015, 7:32 p.m.: This post has been updated.