School Mourns Loss of Boy Blessed by Pope Francis

PHILADELPHIA--(WTXF) The young boy who was blessed by Pope Francis on his way to Independence Mall back in September has died.

Landon Vargas's family announced the heartbreaking news on the boy's Facebook support page.

Failing health had kept Landon Vargas away from his third grade classmates at Saint Helena School for all but a few hours this academic year. Still, news of his passing leaves a void in the hearts of those who knew him best.

School principal of Saint Helena's described Vargas as, "'Miles of Smiles', because that's who Landon was, for all of us."
And he always will be.

By the time Vargas started kindergarten at Saint Helena, he had already been diagnosed with cancer.
It did not stop him from wrestling, playing soccer, basketball and his beloved baseball.

"During this entire time, he's known nothing other than surgery, radiation, chemotherapy," Shoulberg says.

She explains that he was always in good spirits despite the severity of his constant treatments.

Back on September 26th, with hope for his health running out, Landon's family brought him to see Pope Francis at Independence Hall. Tickets had been provided by Shoulberg through St. Joe's Preparatory School.

Landon's dad told FOX 29 that afternoon that Pope Francis looked over at Landon, and his father then gestured to his son and yelled to the pontiff, "Benedicelo," or "bless him."
"And he made eye contact with me and I don't know if he read my lips, but I saw him nod and then he tapped the driver and that's when he stopped," Landon's dad said.
Pope Francis blessed the child, gently kissed him on the head, and tussled his hair.

"We were praying and hoping that he would bless him. Now it's in God's hands," Landon's dad says.

Shoulberg was also in the crowd during the blessing.

"I burst into tears and was just so filled with joy!" Shoulberg says. "The miracle was that it gave them hope and peace that they hadn't had in a long time. It was a light in a time of great darkness."
The school gym, which is usually filled with laughter by midday, was quiet when Shoulberg gathered the student body first thing Monday morning, to announce Landon's passing.

"He loved life. He celebrated life at every venture," Shoulberg says.

She prays that a little boy dying will teach others about living.

"You take one day at a time and you embrace life and live it to the fullest, because that's what Landon did," says Shoulberg.