VATICAN CITY (AP) — Retired Associated Press photographer Nick Ute met with Pope Francis on Wednesday and gave him a copy of a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of a young Vietnamese girl in napalm. Running naked on the road after the bullet attack.
Ut and Kim Phuc Phan Thi, a horrific photo taken by an Associated Press photographer during the Vietnam War on June 8, 1972, greeted Wednesday at the end of the general audience in St. Peter’s Square ahead of the iconic image’s 50th anniversary Francis.
Jinfu, who later moved to Canada and raised his family there, met with former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio a few years ago in his native Buenos Aires, Argentina, as a UN cultural goodwill ambassador. In part, she has been to travel agencies there.
“He saw the photo and immediately thought of her,” Ute told The Associated Press in the square after the encounter. Kim Fook said she wasn’t sure Francis would remember her given the hundreds of people she met every day.
“But he remembers it very well. He said, I remember you, I know you. Do you remember we met in Buenos Aires? I said ‘yes, I do. I said ‘God bless your body’ Health, and for all you do for peace.'”
Ut and Kim Phuc hosted an exhibition in Milan for his photos in Italy ahead of the anniversary of his “Napalm Girl” photo. Such a photo had a strong impact on Francis: he had previously distributed another pocket-sized photo of a young Nagasaki boy carrying his dead brother by an American military photographer Taken during WWII.
Francis named himself after the peace-loving St. Francis of Assisi, and stamped “Fruit of War” on the photo.
Ut was only 21 years old when he took the photo of Vietnam, then he put the camera aside and rushed Kim Phuc, 9, to the hospital, where doctors saved her life.
“It was just me and my driver there, and then I said I didn’t want to leave because I knew she was going to die,” recalls Ut. “Then I picked her up and put her in the van and I took her to the hospital.”
Ut later became an Associated Press photographer based in Los Angeles, photographing A-list celebrities, until retiring from the news agency in 2017.
Recalling the horror of that day, Jin Fu said that 50 years ago, she was known to the world as just a victim of war.
“But now, 50 years later, I am no longer a victim of war. I am a mother, a grandmother and a survivor calling for peace,” she said.