A young Irish boy who flew to Italy for life-saving treatment has received a special blessing from Pope Francis.
One-year-old Ciaran Martin flew to Italy with his parents Leslie and Lynda Martin, from Rathnew, Co Wicklow to receive treatment for a rare condition called metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD).
The young parents also have a three-year-old boy Cathal who suffers from the disease.
The condition, which affects the nervous system, is terminal for Cathal.
However, as Ciaran was diagnosed at an earlier stage, he can take part in the trial in Italy which has been shown to delay the onset of further symptoms.
So far the family have raised €150,000 of their €250,000 target to get Ciaran to Italy to undergo the Gene Therapy programme.
Leslie's sister Sinead Martin told Independent.ie that the family were honored by a special visit by the Pope during a visit to Milan on Saturday.
"The hospital arranged for Ciaran to visit the Pope and he received a special blessing. My brother and his wife were absolutely delighted. He got a prayer from the holiness himself. Ciaran was oblivious to the whole thing but he's only one.
"They're delighted that this might help Ciaran along the way as they need any blessing they can get. Even just a split second with the Pope has helped them stay hopeful. It showed them some comfort."
Ciaran (1) began the intense Gene Therapy treatment today which requires one of his parents or family member to be with him 24 hours a day.
While partially funded, the treatment will take six months and require round-the-clock nursing care.
The family are planning to do two 12-hour shifts each day, seven days a week, and rotate between Ireland and Italy.
During this time, they will also be caring for Cathal.
"It's a very intense treatment. It's six months long and is a cutting edge trial. Ciaran will be kept in isolation during the treatment and when we're caring for him we'll have to wear a full protection suit because his immune system will be so weak," said Sinead.
She said the response to the family's fundraising has been 'amazing'.
"We've had a fantastic response and we're blown away by the support from people who have helped us get on our way."
You can help at www.idonate.ie