Little Jérémy sings for pontiff

A nine-year-old boy from the Quebec City area lived his dream of singing for the Pope on Thursday in Rome.

A nine-year-old boy from the Quebec City area lived his dream of singing for the Pope on Thursday in Rome.

Jérémy Gabriel shows the rosary that he received from Pope Benedict XVI after singing for him at the Vatican. (Plinio Lepri/Associated Press)

Jérémy Gabriel, who suffers from a rare syndrome that causes facial disfigurement and deafness, sang unaccompanied in a clear, true voice for a small group that included Pope Benedict XVI.

The song was Je louerai l'Éternel, which means "I will praise God."

The boy later had a private audience at the Vatican with the Pope, who hugged him and gave him a rosary.

"My heart was beating very fast, but once I started singing I was fine," Jérémy later told the Associated Press.

Jérémy's parents and two sisters accompanied him to Rome for the occasion.

The boy had wanted to sing for the pontiff since he watched the funeral of Pope John Paul II on television last year and saw Benedict being elected as his successor.

Born with Treacher Collins Syndrome, the boy has had several operations to restore his hearing. He is frail and must receive blood transfusions every two weeks.

Jérémy has already made headlines by singing the national anthem before a Montreal Canadiens game and by performing with Céline Dion.

Jérémy's audience with the Pope took place just before the papal blessing of the Quebec-made work of art entitled The Ark of the New Covenant at the Vatican.

The ark is a Quebec artisan's version of the Ark of the Covenant, which according to the Old Testament held the tablets containing the Ten Commandments.

The new ark, which is decorated with iconic images and measures approximately 1.2 metres wide, 0.6 metres high, and 0.6 metres deep, will make its way across Canada en route to the Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City in 2008.

Roman Catholics in Canada are hoping that Pope Benedict will be able to attend the closing ceremonies of the international gathering in 2008, but with the visit two years away the Vatican says it will depend on the Pope's health at that time.