Children had the chance of lifetime today: to ask any questions they wanted to Pope Francis. An estimated 7,000 children gathered at the Paul VI Audience Hall, sponsored by the Fabbrica della Pace (The Peace Factory).The organization promotes peace initiatives and cross-cultural understanding through education.
The Holy Father began by welcoming the children present; thanking them for the questions they sent previously.
A young girl named Chiara, who said that she argues a lot with her sister, asked the Pope if he ever argued with members of his family.
The Holy Father said that it was a question that everyone present could relate with. While arguments always arise, he said, what is most important is that there is reconciliation.
“This is possible: do not let that arguments go over the next day. This is ugly! Do not end the day without making peace,” he said.
“Even I have argued many times, even now…I get a little hot-headed, but I always look to make peace together. It is human to argue. The important thing is that it does not remain, that peace is done after. Understood?”
Another children asked the Holy Father whether he is tired of being around so many people and if he wanted a “little bit of peace.”
“I, many times, want a bit of tranquility, to rest a bit more. This is true. But being with people does not take away my peace,” he answered.
“What takes away peace is jealousy, envy, avarice, to take things from others: that takes away peace. But being with people is beautiful; it does not take away peace! It is a bit tiring because one can become tired, I am not a young man…But it does not take away peace.”
Several questions took a more serious turn, addressing issues such as war, forgiveness, youth imprisonment, and faith.
Regarding a question made by a young Egyptian student who asked why people with power don’t do more to help schools in areas of conflict, the 78 year old Pontiff said that there is an even greater question: Why do so many powerful people not want peace?
“They live off of war! The arms industry: this is serious! The powerful, some powerful people, earn money by arms manufacturing, and sell arms to a country that is against this one, and then they sell it to those who are against that one…It is the industry of death!” he exclaimed.
An old priest that I knew many years ago said: the devil enters through the wallet. Because of greed.”
When asked if someone can be forgiven for doing “horrible things”, the Pope replied: “God forgives everything! Understood? It is we who do not know how to forgive.”
“It is easier to fill prisons than helping those who have made mistakes in life to go forward,” he continued.
“The easiest path? Go to prison. And there is no forgiveness. And what does forgiveness mean? Did you fall? Get up! I will help you to get up, to reinsert yourself in society. There is always forgiveness and we must learn to forgive.”
Continuing the discussion on imprisonment, a young detainee from the Casal del Marmo detention center asked if the Pope agreed that prison was the appropriate response to troubled youth like him.
“No, I do not agree. I repeat what I said: it is to help to get up, to reinsert [in society] with education, with love, with closeness. But the solution of prisons is that it is the most comfortable thing to forget those who suffer!”
The Pope encouraged the youth to not judge those who are imprisoned but to help those who have made mistakes to re-enter society.
Concluding his address, Pope Francis once again thanked the children for their questions, calling on them to pray for him.
“And work for peace! Understood?” he said, encouraging them to repeat a well-known phrase: “Where there is no justice, there is no peace.”