Help Tonio provide for his 44 disabled children in Brazil: LifeFunder.com
(LifeSiteNews) – A Brazilian adoptive father of 44 disabled children met Pope Francis in Rome to request further support for his remarkable work with orphans, many of whom were abandoned at birth or survivors of failed abortions.
Tonio Tavares de Mello, who has been supported with more than $47,000 from LifeSiteNews readers to date, flew to Rome for a meeting with Pope Francis on Wednesday to discuss the work of the Jesús Menino (Boy Jesus) community he founded in 1990 in Rio de Janeiro state.
WATCH: Claire Chretien’s report from December 2020 on Tonio Tavares de Mello’s
Accompanied by two of his sons, both of whom are blind, Tonio told LifeSiteNews that the Pope was very happy to meet the trio and remembered the community from a previous encounter in Rome.
“Our meeting with Pope Francis took place very early,” Tonio said. “The meeting with the pope was to tell him what the community are doing, to ask him his blessing, and he was very happy to meet us.”
Health insurance for the 44 disabled children, some of whom are now adults, has been paid by the pope for the past two years, but a pending expiration of the arrangement had caused their adoptive father great concern this year.
Tonio was therefore relieved to report to LifeSiteNews that Pope Francis agreed at Wednesday’s meeting to continue paying for the disabled children’s health insurance.
“The health insurance that he gave the children two years ago has been so good for the community, but we needed a renewal,” Tonio explained. “Thankfully, the pope agreed to renew the financial support towards health insurance for the community.”
Tonio presented Pope Francis with a special pro-life icon from Brazil of a baby being held in a hand, with the Argentine pontiff encouraging him to “stay firm” in his defense of life.
The pope also met two of Tonio’s sons, Felipe and Alex, at Wednesday’s audience, with the pair giving Pope Francis a shirt and calendar from the Jesus Menino community before receiving the papal blessing.
Tonio and his sons also met with the Italian Bishops Conference and the Brazilian ambassador to the Holy See on Friday.
The Jesús Menino community is nestled about an hour north of Rio di Janeiro in the city of Petropolis.
There, Tonio cares for his adopted children, who have a range of disabilities such as autism and cerebral palsy. The community was recently featured in the HUMAN Life movie.
“This is the message of the Catholic Community of the Boy Jesus: it is to embrace life, to acknowledge life, to respect life throughout its development from conception until natural death,” Tonio told LifeSiteNews in December 2020. “Life, at the present time, must continue to be defended: always, always, always.”
De Mello explained that his community had suffered from the coronavirus outbreak in the loss of one his adopted sons. Not being able to be with him as he died earlier this year was “one of the strongest griefs I have had as a father.”
“The coronavirus crisis has brought pain to the whole world, and not only financial pain, but also physical and psychological pain, and religious pain because people could not go to religious services or Mass,” Tonio said last December.
“Some of the sons of the community were affected by the coronavirus, one even died, but he was in isolation and we never were able to have contact with him. This is one of the strongest griefs I have had as a father. The great fear of the community was not to be able to say goodbye to Rodrigo,” he said. “It was indeed impossible to visit him because he was completely isolated. His burial only took 20 minutes and we could not be there either.”
“The pain of not being close to a person when he gives up his soul is very great.”
One of Tonio’s children is a nine-year-old named Jean “who is completely anencephalous.” A prenatal anencephaly diagnosis is one of the few reasons abortion is legally permitted in Brazil.
“For you and for all defenders of life if all over the world he is the great answer of God,” de Mello said. “It is impossible in our eyes that a child who has undergone various forms of violence in order to avoid his birth, who was attacked in the womb of his mother for not being normal, should have managed to see the light.”
“People cannot understand this miracle. The miracle is indisputable. He has grown and he is alive. In the middle of all our needs and everything we ask, we know that we have in our midst a living miracle that we can see with our own eyes. This is what life is worth. This is what I want to tell LifeSite readers: This is what your prayer is worth, this is what your faith is worth, and with us you can continue to defend life. Jean is the symbol of life. Thank you, every one of you. May we continue in unity in order to build this bridge to take us to Heaven that gives us life.”
LifeSiteNews continues to support the Jesús Menino community through our LifeFunder platform, where readers can contribute to this very special family in Brazil: LifeFunder.com