March 1, 2016 — Pope Francis personally
responds to 30 questions from kids in his first children’s book, “Dear Pope Francis:
The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World.” In the new book published
by Jesuit-run Loyola Press, the pope answers questions about why he wears that
big hat, if relatives watch over us from heaven, whether bad people have
guardian angels and more.
“One of the lines we use to describe this book
is: Little children have big questions,” said Jesuit Father Paul Campbell, publisher
of Loyola Press. “Yes they are questions from little children, but they are very,
very profound questions.”
The book came about when editors from Loyola
Press traveled to Rome last May and asked the pope if he’d consider writing the
book. He agreed and Loyola Press then reached out to dozens of Jesuits and
collaborators around the globe, asking them to solicit questions and drawings
from children. Sometimes Loyola Press had to ship off crayons, markers and
paper because the children had none. In the end, 259 children in 26 countries
Loyola Press selected 30 letters for the pope
to answer, and Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of the journal La Civiltà Cattolica, met privately with
Pope Francis while he answered the letters.
The result: letters and drawings from 30
children, ages 6 to 13, posing some deep questions. "What did God do
before the world was made?" one child asked. “Do you know why some parents
argue with each other?” asked another.
Fr. Spadaro said half the time he personally
was stumped when thinking about how he would have responded. But the pope
wasn’t. To the question about what God was doing before creation, the heart of
the pope’s answer is, “Think of it this way: Before creating anything, God
loved. That’s what God was doing: God was loving.”
William Morkin, a 7-year-old from Chicago,
asked the pope in his letter: “Dear Pope Francis, if you could do one miracle
what would it be?” Pope Francis answered: "I would heal every child."
When asked by Mohamed, 10, from Syria if the
world will ever be beautiful again, like it was before, the pope responded by
pointing out how, after he died and ascended into heaven, Jesus promised that
he would return, and when he does, “everything will be new: a new heaven, a new
of this, “the world now will not be like it was in the past,” Francis said. He
lamented that there are “evil people” who produce and sell arms in order to
make war, people who hate, and people who are so attached to money that they
will “even sell other people” to get more.
Although “this is terrible,” the pope stressed
that “this suffering is destined to end, you know? It’s not forever. Suffering
is lived with hope, despite everything.”
On a more lighthearted note, the pope answered
questions about Sunday school, how Jesus walked on water and what he would like
to do to make the world a better place.
To celebrate the book’s release, which is also
being published by Jesuit publishing houses in 11 other countries, several
children whose letters appear in the book met with Pope Francis in a private
audience at the Vatican Feb. 22. They presented him the Italian translation
of the book, as well as all of the letters collected for the project.
gets a group hug from a few of his coauthors at the Vatican Feb. 22.
Meeting the pope was an incredible moment for the kids — and a little nerve-wracking.
Ryan Khandelwal, 9, from St. Ignatius School in Winnipeg, Canada, said, "One moment
I felt excited, but then I felt like this is probably my only time I’m going to
meet him, so I don’t want to blow this."
To order the book in English
or Spanish, visit loyolapress.com/DearPopeFrancis.
[Sources: Jesuits: Maryland Province, Vatican Radio, Wall Street Journal, Catholic News Service, Good Morning America, National Catholic Register]