On Saturday, Pope Francis met with 200 children who were participants in the annual “Children’s Train,” sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture in association with the Italian national railway. The following is a translation of the Holy Father’s conversation with the boys and girls, who this year were selected from among children of men and women imprisoned in Rome.
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Pope Francis: You in the orchestra are very good, and you are very good with the song! You are all very good. Thank you! [applause]
You have given me some gifts. One of them was the earth from the catacombs. You gave that to me right?
Child: Yes, I did!
Pope Francis: You, that’s right. And the other gift that you brought me was a plant. Who brought me the plant?… A plant. And you told me: ‘It is the plant of light…’ – how did you say it? The plant of light to make the world…I can’t hear you…
Pope Francis: Better! And inside there is earth from the catacombs…
Young boy: …from the Catacombs of Saint Januarius!
Pope Francis: Saint Januarius! They are the most important, no?
Pope Francis: Because they are in Naples, eh? [children laugh] You are clever, you neapolitans! But tell me: are the catacombs on the beach, in the light of the sun?
Pope Francis: No. Where are the catacombs?
Pope Francis: Underground. And in the catacombs, is their light?
Pope Francis: What is there?
Pope Francis: The darkness. You brought me earth from the darkness…But what does this earth from the darkness mean? What is the meaning of this earth from the darkness? Who knows? Who can tell me? Why did you bring me ‘earth from the darkness’? Say it loud…Louder, I can’t hear you…
Children: So that it may become light.
Pope Francis: So that it may become light. The darkness is for the light: when it is nighttime, everything is dark. But we await the dawn, when the light begins. Which is more important – the darkness or the light?
Children: The light!
Pope Francis: The light! And when we are in darkness, what is the most important thing to do? To go…?
Children: …towards the light
…to the light, to look for it…
Pope Francis: The light. It is inside of us, always. Because the light gives us joy, it gives us hope. And do we all have the possibility to find the light?
Young girl: Yes!
Pope Francis: That’s right, you are very good. You have no doubts! Tell it to them: Do we have the possibility?
Young girl: Yes!
Pope Francis: Now everyone: Do we have the possibility?
Pope Francis: Yes! Because in the light there are good things, and in the light you can do that which you told me when you gave me the plant: to make fruits that will help us to make the world…?
Pope Francis: Better. And can a better world be made?
Pope Francis: Better than this world?
Pope Francis: Yes. And better than the world that I live in?
Pope Francis: Yes. And how do you make a better world? With hate, is it made with hate?
Pope Francis: Good, say it, say loudly!
Children: With love!
Pope Francis: With love. With love. Everyone together, like brothers, fighting side by side for love. And for this reason, I will tell you one thing: when the apostle John, who was a good friend of Jesus – a very good friend – wanted to say who God is, do you know what he said? “God is love”. It is beautiful. Who is God?
Children: He is love!
Pope Francis: Louder!
Pope Francis: God is love. And we go towards the light to find the love of God. But is the love of God inside of us, even in the dark times? Is the love of God there, hidden? Yes, always! The love of God never leaves us. It is always with us. Do we have faith in this love, eh?
Pope Francis: I thank you for your visit, I am happy to meet you, that we met all together. I am so happy.
Children: Us too!
Pope Francis: You too?
Children: Us too!
Pope Francis: Is there any one of you not happy?
Pope Francis: Ah, good. Very good, very good…
Children: We are all happy…We love you.
Pope Francis: Thank you very much! And now I will pray to the Lord for you, so that he may make of you children, young boys, young girls, men, women who bring love forward. When the love of God is ahead, everything goes well. And now, I would like to give you the blessing. Each one of you think in your hearts of the person who you love, so that they may be blessed.
Pope Francis: Very good…And is there another song?
Pope Francis: Let’s sing another one…
[Translation by Junno Arocho Esteves]