Meeting 500 Italian school children on Saturday, the Pope reiterated the importance of rejecting darkness, embracing the light, and realizing that only love and never hatred can make the world better. 

Part of “The Digger’s Light” program, a new initiative of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Pope Francis met a group of children considered “at risk” of dropping out of school. The meeting took place Saturday in Paul VI Hall of the Vatican.

Patrizia Martinez, head of the “Courtyard of the Children” which spearheaded the event, shared how the initiative and the Ministry of Education had selected various schools. They jointly decided on those far from the center, “far from places of culture and beauty,” she said. 

During the gathering, the Pope spoke to the children about the importance of coming into the light. “The light is always inside us, because the light give us joy, gives us hope,” he said. When people seek the light, he continued, they can make the world a better place.

Before addressing them, children had presented him gifts from an excursion to the catacombs, including earth and plants. The Pope spoke about the plant as a "light to make a better world.” The earth, which came from the darkness of the catacombs, was given to the Pope “to make it become light.”

The Pope stressed we can’t make the world better with hatred – only with love.

“With love. With love. All together, like brothers, fighting alongside one another with love. And for that reason, I want to tell you one thing: When the Apostle John, who was such a good friend of Jesus, wanted to say who God is, do you know what he said? ‘God is love.’”

"We go forward together toward the light to find the love of God,” he said.

“But is the love of God within us, even in moments of darkness? Is the love of God hidden there?," the Pope asked. “Yes, always! The love of God never leaves us. It is always with us. Let us have faith in this love,” he responded.

Other elements of the children's program, which took place in the days before their visit with the Pope, included a visit to the the catacombs of St. Januarius in Naples. (D.C.L)


Text of Pope's dialogue with the children