Incarnation Parish altar server Silas Bichler meets Pope Francis at the Vatican in March as part of a Make-A-Wish Foundation effort. (COURTESY)

Sarasota teen blessed by Pope Francis


SARASOTA  |  The wheels of the plane that returned Silas Bichler of Sarasota and his family from a meeting with Pope Francis in Rome may have touched down in Tampa March 17, but Silas’ feet won’t hit the ground for a long time.

Silas, 18-year-old altar server at Incarnation Parish in Sarasota who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth, had his dream of meeting Pope Francis granted during a visit to the Vatican March 11-17, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“We had so many wonderful moments on this trip, which began with our limo driver whose name was Angel,” said Silas’ mother, Tonia Bichler, from her home following the trip.

Once at the Vatican, the family noticed that each child could only have one representative seated alongside them due to space limitations. However all four Bichler family members — including Silas, brother Josiah, and his mother and father — were each approved to sit in the courtyard for their meeting of a lifetime.

A video of the greeting shows Pope Francis approaching Silas and offering a gentle hug before spending a few minutes going over a special book about the teen’s wish. The Holy Father then blessed Silas and listened to his question.

“I asked him if I could serve Mass with him,” said Silas, who was beaming with joy as he shared his story of meeting the Holy Father.

Pope Francis could be heard on the video answering Silas that he wasn’t sure when that could happen, but immediately following the ceremony a German cardinal obtained the family’s contact information. Markus Bichler, Silas’ father, was born and raised in Germany.

The family later spent time at the burial site of St. John Paul II, and again, another extraordinary experience occurred when the guard approached Silas and Josiah to ask if they wanted to touch the casket of the former pope. The young men were given time alone to say prayers at St. John Paul II’s tomb, which is currently in the Chapel of St. Sebastian on the main floor of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

To see the full video of Silas Bichler’s meeting with Pope Francis, visit