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Lexington’s Lizzy Myers meets Pope Francis

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis has blessed the eyes of a 5-year-old Ohio girl who suffers from a rare genetic disease that is gradually robbing her of her sight.

Little Lizzy Myers and her family had special seats for Francis’ Wednesday general audience, and Francis spent several minutes with her at the end. He caressed her, hugged her, and placed his hands over her eyes. She gave him a meteorite chunk.

Her mother, Christine Myers, said afterward that Lizzy was “awestruck. She was totally big-eyed and it was a very powerful moment for her.”

Lizzy, who is from Lexington, Ohio, doesn’t know she suffers from Usher’s Syndrome, which will take away her hearing and gradually make her blind. But her father said after Lizzy received the diagnosis “we realized that we have to do as much as we can to let her see as many wonderful things as possible.”

The first item on their bucket list was the Warren Rupp observatory near their home, where Lizzy could look through a giant telescope at the moon and the stars.

Someone at the observatory invited a journalist and before the Myers knew it, Lizzy’s story was all over the news and they were receiving generous offers to help them show her much more in the short time she has before her sight fails.

The general manager of Turkish Airlines was touched by Lizzy’s story and round-trip tickets were offered to anywhere in the world. The family chose Rome.

Speaking to The Associated Press in the garden of their hotel in Rome as their daughters played behind them, Steve and Christine Myers said Lizzy had already adjusted well to the hearing aids she has to wear.

“I want her to live as normal a life as she can, now,” said her mother. “There will come a time when we will have to tell her. I dread that day.”