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MY HERO THE POPE; Cancer lad's joy at Benedict blessing.

Byline: Craig McDonald

THE little boy who asked the Pope to bless him and "make his cancer go to sleep" got his wish last night.

And brave nine-year-old Anton McManus said Benedict was his hero - along with Celtic boss Neil Lennon.

The Record told yesterday how Anton wrote to the Pope before his visit to Scotland to ask for his blessing.

And just minutes after yesterday's papal Mass at Glasgow's Bellahouston Park, Anton and his parents were taken to meet the Holy Father.

The Pope blessed Anton, kissed him and patted him tenderly on the shoulder as mum Tammi, 33, and dad Kevin, 35, looked on in tears.

Humbling Tammi, of East Kilbride, Lanarkshire, said: "We can't thank the Pope enough.

"We didn't know exactly what to say or do - it was just a special off-the-cuff moment and a very humbling one as well."

Anton, overwhelmed by all the attention, could only say: "I have my suit and tie on. The Pope blessed me and I prayed for him to make my cancer go to sleep."

But earlier, the youngster was beside himself at the thought of meeting Benedict. He said: "It's the best day of my life."

And when asked who his hero was, he replied: "Neil Lennon and now the Pope."

He was too excited to say any more. He only wanted to play with his big sister, 11-year-old Rebecca. Anton decided to ask the Pope to help him after he heard his Primary Four classmates at St Vincent's Primary in East Kilbride talking about Benedict's visit.

He took three-and-a-half hours to write a heartfelt letter to the Vatican.

And just 24 hours before Benedict's arrival in Scotland, Church officials told the family that Anton's plea for a blessing would be granted.

Anton's cancer is now in remission but he is frightened it will come back one day, and hopes Pope Benedict can help keep it away.

He told us: "If anyone can stop my disease returning, it is God."

Doctors found a tumour on Anton's spine when he was only four. He went through 14 chemotherapy sessions and endured 25 bouts of radiotherapy.

Because his spine was affected, Anton suffered partial paralysis on his right side. And his treatment weakened the bones in his neck and caused them to snap, leaving him unable to move his head from side to side.

Surgeons transplanted two of his ribs to his neck, and he has two metal rods and 10 screws in his body, "He was lucky to make it through," Tammi said. "We just hope this blessing will keep the cancer at bay."

Pope Benedict also blessed 18-month-old Alexander Frame, who has an incurable genetic disorder called neuroaxonal dystrophy.

The blessing was a dream come true for the tot's mum Kathleen and dad Allan.

Allan, a car salesman from Glasgow, said: "This means so much to my wife and I. To be able to have Alexander blessed by the Pope is really special to us and the whole family.

Harder "Alexander has brought a lot of joy to us. It will get harder in the future as the doctors say at some stage he will go into a persistent vegetative state.

"I suppose what we are really praying for is a miracle."

Alexander's blessing was arranged by the Bishop of Paisley, Philip Tartaglia, who worked frantically over the last few days to make it happen.

Allan told the Record on Wednesday: "We can't thank him enough." Cerebral palsy sufferer Rosemarie Stevenson yesterday became one of just a handful of people to receive Communion from two Pontiffs in her own country.

Rosemarie, now 36, was lifted to the altar as a child to be given Communion by John Paul II during his 1982 Mass at Bellahouston Park.

This time, she was helped up the staircase to the stage, but insisted on walking the final few steps towards the Pope.


HOPING: Allan wants a miracle for desperately ill Alexander SPECIAL MOMENT: Anton receives his blessing from the Pope, as his tearful parents look on. Right, Benedict arrives at Heathrow last night was the priests and told that was going to go backstage TURN TO PAGE 6 EXCITED: Subo swooned ting Pontiff OUR DREAM: Anton and his family can't hide their excitement as they prepare to meet Pope
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 17, 2010
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