Crash survivor counts her blessings

WHEN Claire Hill was given the Pope's blessing, her family didn't realise she would need it.

Claire was 12 months old, a little red bundle in her father's arms, watching Pope Benedict's World Youth Day procession at Randwick among a crowd of thousands. Her jacket caught the Pope's eye, and the cavalcade was halted for Claire to be passed through the Popemobile window and kissed by the pontiff.

Two-and-a-half years later, she was trapped under the rear wheel of a three-tonne bus and no one expected her to survive.

''The ambulances came really slow because they thought there was no chance,'' Claire's mother, Sue Hill, said. ''Then someone said to me, 'she's been blessed by the Pope, she'll make it', and that gave me some comfort.''

Claire was rushed to Sydney from Culburra Beach, south of Wollongong, and she was released from hospital several days later with grazes and minor bruising.

The Pope's blessing was the third in Claire's short life. Cardinal George Pell and the family's local priest blessed Mrs Hill while she was pregnant with Claire.

Mrs Hill said her family loved Pope Benedict like a grandfather and they were sad to see him go.

''We'll miss him, but I'm sure he's doing what's best,'' she said. ''He's a humble, very holy man who gives himself for others.''

Claire Brown, a 25-year-old Sydney woman who met the Pope for lunch at the most recent World Youth Day in Spain in 2011, described him as "peaceful" and "humble".

She felt his blessing had helped her overcome a lot of anxiety and shyness. "It was a privilege, he is a humble man of God," she said.

The story Crash survivor counts her blessings first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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