Pontiff tells children what he wanted to be when he grew up, his favorite saints, and the one question he cannot answer
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis this week met with several children from around the world who sent him letters contained in the new book, Dear Pope Francis.
The new children’s book, due out on shelves March 1, was presented to the pope during his meeting with the children in the Vatican.
The young people were accompanied by the President of Caritas Internationalis, Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, and the editor-in-chief of the Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, who helped Pope Francis with the book.
During the encounter — involving children from Italy, the Philippines, India, Kenya, Australia, Argentina, the United States, Canada, Singapore, Ireland, Belgium and China — the Holy Father said the questions asked for the book were some of the “most difficult” he had ever been asked.
Pope Francis then proceeded to answer more questions the children had.
He said his favorite thing about being pope was “being around people,” adding that he “learned something every time” he met someone new.
He told another child that when he was young, he wanted to be a butcher, because when he went to the market with his mother, he thought the butcher’s work was fascinating. “The way he cut the meat, that was art,” he said.
One young person caused some indecision on the part of Pope Francis by asking who was his favorite saint: “I have several saint-friends, but I do not know which I admire the most,” the Holy Father said, “but I am a friend of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus; I am a friend of St. Ignatius; I am a friend of St. Francis … I would say these three, perhaps, are the ones I most keep in my heart.”
He said being pope gives him a sense of “calm” and said that it is “a grace from God,” adding that it “feels as I am coming to the end of my life with so much peace.”
The Holy Father said when he was elected, Cardinal Hummes told him to “not worry, it is the work of the Holy Spirit,” and told him to “not forget the poor.”
When asked about his love for Jesus, Pope Francis said, “I do not know if I truly love Jesus. I try to love him, but I am sure that he loves me. I’m quite certain of this.”
Pope Francis said being pope is “both easy and difficult, as is the life of any person,” explaining “it’s easy because you have a lot of people to help you … and there are difficult moments because there are difficulties in all the work there is.”
The children also asked Pope Francis about his prayer life.
“I pray in the morning when I wake up: the prayerbook all priests pray, called the breviary,” he said. “I pray the Mass, then I pray the rosary … and then in the afternoon I take time for Eucharistic Adoration.”
The pope encouraged the children to always carry a rosary with them and added he also carries a Via Crucis in his pocket, because it is a reminder that Jesus also suffered and this helps him to be “more good and less bad.”
At the end of the encounter, Pope Francis addressed the issue of “Why do children suffer?,” saying it is question that causes him great pain, and he admitted he did not know the answer to the question.
“The only thing that gives me light is looking at the cross and seeing what Jesus suffered; it is the only answer I can find,” he said.