Thousands of girls and boys from eighty-four countries around the world filled the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Monday afternoon to meet Pope Francis as part of an event called Let’s Learn from Children, sponsored by the Dicastery for Culture and Education. I am waiting for you to learn something from you, the Pope invited them on October 1, when he appeared at the window of the Apostolic Palace during the noon prayer with five small representatives of all continents.
In a short introductory speech, the Pope confided to the children that he learns something new every time he meets the youngest generation: “For example, you remind me how beautiful life is in its simplicity, and you also teach me how beautiful it is to be together!” These are two great gifts that God gave us: to live and to simply be able to be together. (…) Your presence here is a sign that goes straight to the hearts of us adults, and we adults are to follow your spontaneity and listen to your message”.
Meeting of Pope Francis with children in the hall of Paul VI.
Peace is made with a heart and a handshake
After that, Pope Francis touched on many topics when he answered the children’s questions, surprisingly mainly about the situation in the world at war. Rania, a girl of Palestinian origin, raised the question: “If World War III starts, will peace never return?” “You asked a question that affects your country,” replied Pope Francis. “The war has already broken out all over the world, not only in Palestine. War is evil and takes away our peace and life. We must work for peace”, he added and asked the children to repeat this resolution with him and silently greet Rania and all the inhabitants of her homeland with their hands.
Peace is beautiful. But how is peace created? That was the question of the Ukrainian boy Ivan. How to establish peace? A difficult question, answered Francis, it is easier to say how war is made, because hatred with revenge, harming the other, works here. “There is no method to learn to make peace. There is a gesture: a hand extended as a sign of friendship, always trying to involve other people to follow the same path. Peace is made with the heart and the outstretched hand”.
A direct question was asked by a Syrian child: Why do they kill children in the war and no one defends them? Killing children is cruelty, the Pope replied, asking for a minute of silence for all the children killed. It is injustice, war is cruel and who pays for it? Innocent children, he added and invited everyone to pray the Lord’s Prayer.
Meeting of Pope Francis with children
Caring for creatures and wasting food
There were also questions about the care of creation and food waste, topics close to Pope Francis’ heart. When asked by Isadora from Brazil whether children can save the Earth, the Pope replied: Children can save the Earth because you are simple and understand that destroying the Earth means destroying yourself. The earth gives us everything we need to live.
I am very concerned about nature, the Pope then answered another question: Consider that the ice is melting at the North Pole. The seas are rising, the fauna and fish in the seas are being destroyed, that’s why I’m worried. We should all be concerned.
And to the question of Luxelle, an African girl, who asked him: Why is it so hot, even though it is autumn?, František answered: That is a very important question. Humans do not care for the creatures and nature is rioting. We must learn to guard creation and not pollute it.
Salma, a nine-year-old girl from Ghana, then asked the question: How can we prevent waste? Each of us must learn not to waste food, the Pope said, urging the children: “If there is something left at noon, eat it in the evening, but do not throw it away. Wasting food is an ugly sin”.
Sometimes I get angry, but I don’t bite
What is the Pope dreaming about? Who are the Pope’s friends? In the end, there was no shortage of inquisitive questions that the Pope answered with amusement, for example when Massimo from Rome asked him: What do you dream about at night?: I don’t know what I dream about at night because I’m asleep. The Pope answered without hesitation, causing laughter and applause from the entire Paul VI auditorium. Sometimes, he explained, I have dreams that are memories of my youth, of when I was a child, but most of the time I am asleep. Dreaming is beautiful, when a person dreams, he has something of life in him.
How do you calm down when you get upset? asked Sophie from the Philippines. Sometimes I get angry, but I don’t bite, answered František and gave advice to the children: When you get angry, before you answer, drink a glass of water. Finally, when asked who his friends are, the Pope answered: My friends are the people who live with me, at home. I have many friends outside the home, in some parishes, and also some cardinals are my friends. I have the grace to have friends, and that is a grace from God, because a person who has no friends is a sad person.
A one-minute clip from the Pope’s meeting with children from all over the world