When Pedro and Anna began their life together in a Saint Lucia apartment in 1984, Pope John Paul II, then still a cardinal, was in Rome for Mass at the Vatican.
Years later, he would have another interaction with the couple, after they adopted a baby daughter, Veronica. The new pontiff would still be priding himself on doing what God had called him to do.
It would be Francis who, in 2015, over Pedro’s objections, ordained Father José Gomez — a Spanish priest — as superior general of the Hispanic bishops conference. In the words of the Guardian, which profiled the couple over the weekend, “Francis then formally made Julio Gomez Jesús Figueroa venerable, as required for appointment as a senior Vatican official.”
Eleanor Cabell Reyes wrote of the marriage in the Guardian: “After 30 years together, and after all the ups and downs of their relationship — from the decades Pedro worked as a newspaper reporter and covered the life of Christ, to the three miscarriages and their adoption of a baby girl — the stress had reduced and Anna had the pregnancy for free.”
Over time, Veronica, now 24, would come into the room and fall over from excitement.
The couple has remained devoted, despite Pedro’s clerical career and the eventual retirement of Father Gomez in 2009. In his autobiography, Father Gomez recalled how during a 2001 trip to England, Anna found herself torn between the doctor and the priest who was also traveling with her. He was the one who was called on for prayers and counsel.
The couple has another daughter, Kate, and five children together. Pedro, an artist who painted a mural in the construction of Saint Peter’s Square in Rome, said he “can’t explain [his art] except that it expresses the depths of love.”
He says that he fears “it will be impossible for another priest to have another kid,” although he has taught his daughter the art of it, especially the small brush strokes.
Back in 1983, then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla met with Anna’s family while on a pastoral visit.
Pope John Paul II holds a son as Pope Francis hugs Christina Marquez as his wife.
Wojtyla’s appeal to people in the audience was that there is “God in all of us. And that we are all members of the family,” Eva Figueroa, Anna’s sister, recalled.
Religion expert Sarah Azzopardi of The National Catholic Reporter said that the meeting over the fatality of abortion “reminded the family that it was not a historical battle about abortion rights, but a battle about the worth of human life.”
Since meeting Pope Francis, Anna Figueroa has said that she has finally agreed to have a second child. In 2015, Pedro Figueroa, still a parish priest, told a reporter, “There’s no reason why we can’t have another grandchild.”
One of his fellow parishioners on the day after the interview said, “We used to get all sorts of bishops and priests asking for a miracle, but we’re totally done with that now. [Father Gomez] is a rock. He’s one of those guys you can’t turn down.”
Francis, to his credit, has shown himself as one of those “guys.” And the results have been miraculous. Two sons have been born, and Veronica has seen her hope at the option of abortion rise, not fall.
Anna said that Pope Francis himself had expressed sympathy when she asked for him to pray for her on April 26, just after a critical appendix operation. According to Pedro, Pope Francis replied that he knew Anna was doing “extraordinary things.”
More than a decade ago, Pope Benedict had taken a private meeting with Pedro and Anna, who had been seated in the same row. Pedro said in 2012, recalling the encounter, that in the translation of the conversation, Pope Benedict was said to have said that the pair “do better than I did in the Curia.”