I Started School 77 Years Ago, Pope Tells Children

Encourages Friendship; Reminds Them Jesus Is Greatest Friend

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 26, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI told a group of children this week that making friends is a wonderful thing, but that their first friend is Jesus.

The Pope said this in an audience Thursday with some 400 students, parents and teachers from a primary school of Castel Gandolfo, run by the religious sisters of the Maestre Pie Filippini. 

He reflected with the students from the Paul VI Pontifical Primary School about his own beginnings at school.

«[I]t has been 77 years since I started going to school,» the Holy Father remembered. «It was in a small town of 300 souls, a little bit of a ‘backwater’ [town] one would say. Nevertheless, we learned the essential.»

He recounted how he and the other children learned to read and write, and he reflected, «I think that it is a great thing to be able to write and read, because this way we can know the thought of others, read newspapers, books; we can know what was written 2,000 years ago or a longer time ago.»

«[A]bove all, there is something extraordinary,» the Pontiff continued, «God wrote a book, that is, he spoke to us men and found people who wrote with the Word of God, so that, reading it, we can also read what God says to us.»

It’s very important, Benedict XVI told the children, to learn in school everything that is necessary for life, «and also to learn to know God, to know Jesus and thus to know how to live well.»

«You make many friends in school and it is beautiful; in this way a great family is formed,» he said. «But among the great friends, the first that we make, whom we know, must be Jesus, who is everyone’s friend and really gives us the path of life.»

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