(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 06.11.2023).- War, the environment, the Pope’s work were some of the questions asked the Pope during a meeting, in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, with more than 8,000 children from over 80 countries.
Here is an English translation of the Pontiff’s answers, which were agile, concrete and also open to simple questions but full of the spark and curiosity proper to children.
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[1stCan children save the Earth?]
Presenter: Your companions have prepared a dialogue for you and with you, with Pope Francis. Let’s first listen to the question of Isidora, 9, from Brazil.
Isidora: Hello, Pope Francis, I’m 9 years old and I’m from Brazil. Do you think that we, children, can save the Earth?
Pope Francis: Yes, yes, because you are simple and understand that to destroy the Earth is to destroy ourselves. We must protect the Earth, do you understand? If you destroy the Earth you destroy yourself. Let’s say it all together, slowly, without shouting: to destroy the Earth is to destroy ourselves.” Let’s go! [he repeats} Once again: [he repeats it again] And do you know why? Because the Earth gives us everything to live: it gives us oxygen, it gives us water, it gives us grass, it helps us so much to live. If we destroy the Earth, we destroy ourselves. All together: whoever destroys the Earth destroys us. All together: to destroy the Earth is to destroy ourselves. Thank you.
[And will peace return?]
Presenter: Now we have Raina, 12, from Palestine.
Rania: Dear Pope Francis, I’m Rania, and I’m of Palestinian origin. I wanted to ask you: But if the Third World War starts, will peace ever return?
Pope Francis: You have asked a question that also affects your land, which is suffering so much at this time. If war breaks out: war has already broken out, my dears. Listen to this: war has broken out all over the world. Not only in Palestine: it has broken out in South Africa, it has broken out in the Congo, it has broken out in Myanmar, it has broken out all over the world. They are hidden wars, in Mozambique . . . all over the world. We are living an ugly war and war robs us of peace, and robs us of life. We have to think a bit, work for peace. Let’s say it together in a low voice: “let’s work for peace.” All! [they repeat]. And this girl, who is called Rania, her homeland is at war and is suffering a lot. And may the people of Palestine know that all the children have greeted them. Peace is beautiful. All together: “peace is beautiful” [repeat]. Thank you, Rania.
[3rdWhat does the Pope dream about when he sleeps?]
Presenter: Massimo, 10, from Rome.
Massimo: Hello, Pope Francis. I’m Massimo and I’m Italian. I wanted to ask you: but you, what do you dream about at night?
Pope Francis: You ask me the question: what do I dream about at night? But I don’t know what I dream about, because I sleep! It’s like that. Sometimes, some dreams come that are a memory of when I was young or a child, and I remember these things in my dreams. But in the main, I sleep. And it’s nice. When one dreams of something, there is something of life in it. Let’s say it all together” “it’s nice to dream.” All together! [he repeats].Thank you.
[4thHow is peace made?]
Presenter: Ivan, 9, from Ukraine.
Yvan: Hello, Pope, I’m Ivan and I’m Ukrainian. Can you explain to me how peace is made?
Pope Francis: It’s a very difficult question. How is peace made? Come, come here. It’s not easy to say how peace is made. How war is made is easier, because war is made with hatred, with vengeance, doing the other harm, and this comes from instinct. But peace, how is peace made? Let’s think a moment about your question, which is very intelligent. Your land is at war and you know how much we need peace. I ask you the question; let’s think about it and see how we respond. How do we make peace? Let’s think in silence [a moment of silence]. Have you thought how peace is made? [answer]: “Yes!”] There is no method to learn how to make peace, no. There is a gesture: peace is made with an outstretched hand, with the hand of friendship outstretched, trying always to involve other people to go together. An outstretched hand. I ask you all: do you want to make peace? [they answer: “Yes!”] let’s make a gesture, all together: with outstretched hand, all together, you also, all together. With an outstretched hand, that’s how peace is made, greeting friends, receiving everyone at home. Peace is made with the heart and with an outstretched hand. Let’s say it together: “peace is made with the heart and with an outstretched hand. Let’s say it together: Let’s say it together: “peace is made with the heart and with an outstretched hand.” All together [they repeat it]. Bravo, boy. Bravo, boy.
[5thWhy listen to a boy if they don’t listen to the Pope?]
Presenter: Kim Ngan, 11, from Vietnam.
Kim Ngan: Dear Pope, I’m Kim Ngan, I’m 11 and I’m from Vietnam. I want to understand this: if they haven’t listened to you, who know so much, why should they listen to us, and how can they do so?
Pope Francis: Come, come, stay here. Kim Ngan is from Vietnam, and he asks me how people can listen to you, children. People are very worried about so many things, so many things, and forget to listen to the children. However, you have to say things as you see them, say the truth, say what you heard because your voice is necessary. We say it all together: “the voice of children is needed.” All together. The voice of children is necessary. And you must help so that adults will listen to us, and so that adults listen to you because you are messengers of peace. Let’s say it together: “children are messengers of peace.” Together! [Bravo]. Thank you.
[6thWhy does no one defend the children they are killing in the war?]
Presenter: Antrànik, from Syria.
Antrànik: Hello, Pope Francis, I’m Antrànik and I’m from Syria. Why do you think they kill children during the war and no one defends them?
Pope Francis: Why do they kill children during the war? I’ve seen in the war reports, in the news, how many children have died. They are innocent, and this shows the evil of war. If they only killed soldiers, it would be something else, but they kill innocents, they kill children. Why do they kill children in war? That’s cruelty. Now I’ll make you a proposal, to accompany Antrànik. Why do they kill children in the war? Let’s all engage in a moment of silence, and think of the children that died in the war. It’s ugly, it’s an injustice. Let’s think of the children killed [moment of silence]. Why do they kill the children during the war and no one defends them? This demonstrates the cruelty of war: war is always cruel and who “pays for the party”? Let us pray for the children that suffer and die in the war. And thank you, bravo.
[7thWho are the Pope’s friends?]
Presenter: And now Celeste, 9, from Peru.
Celeste: Dear Pope, my name is Celeste, I’m from Peru, and I wanted to know who are your friends?
Pope Francis: You ask me who are my friends. My friends are the people that live with me at home, they are friends; then I have many outside friends, in some parishes, also some Cardinals are my friends . . . They are friends. I have the grace of having friends, and this is a grace from God, because the person who doesn’t have friends is a sad person. Do you understand? The person that doesn’t have friends is a sad person. Let’s say it together: “the person who doesn’t have friends is a sad person.” Let’s have friends: let’s always have friends. And thank you for the question. You are a good Peruvian.
[8thWhat is the most important thing that Pope Francis has lived??]
Presenter: Now we have seven additional questions for the Holy Father. We begin with Pauline, 12, from the Congo.
Pauline: Dear Pope, I’m Pauline, I’m from the Congo, which you know well. I wanted to ask you, what is the most important thing you have experienced in your life?
Pope Francis: You ask me what is the most important of life. I don’t know how to say it, because I’ve had many important things in my life . . . Also – I’ll tell you the truth — this meeting with you is important in my life, because I find myself with you, with your illusions [desires] . . . But it’s always good to think about the happiest moments we’ve had in our life, and leave the bad ones aside, because we’ve all had bad ones. No, the happy moments. Now, some silence, and each one think what has been the happiest moment of his/her life. Let’s think in silence. Until later. Let’s go on.
[9thHow does the Pope calm down when he gets angry?]
Sofía: Hello, I’m Sofía, I’m from the Philippines. But when you get angry, how do you calm down?
Pope Francis: Eh, sometimes I get angry, but I don’t bite. How do we calm ourselves? Once, a person who helped me a lot in life, when I was a child, said to me: ‘When you get angry, before answering, drink a glass of water.’ It’s good advice. Shall we say it together? When you are angry, before answering, drink a glass of water. “ Again: [repeats] Because you already know that when one is angry, one doesn’t talk, one bites, and that’s not good. Let’s leave ire for the dogs, but let us try to be meek, and not let ourselves be carried away by ire. Let’s repeat it once again: when you are angry, drink a glass of water. Thank you.
[10thWhy is it hot in autumn?]
Presenter: Now we have Luxelle, 9, from Africa.
Luxelle: Hello, Pope Francis, I’m Luxelle. Why is it so hot, although we are in autumn?
Pope Francis: Your question is very important. You ask: Why is the weather so hot, although we are in autumn? You ask this. Do you know why? Because we, men, do not guard Creation, we don’t guard nature and nature rebels. We have to learn to guard Creation, to guard nature and not soil nature. Together: “protect nature.” Together! [repeats] But , I don’t hear . . . [repeats louder] Once again! [Because nature is our future]. Thank you.
[11thIs the Pope worried about the environment?]
Presenter: Now we have Susai, from Samoa and Tonga.
Susai: Hello, Pope Francis, my name is Susai and I’m from Samoa and Tonga. I’d like to ask you: are you worried about the environment?
Pope Francis: You are from Samoa. You ask me if I’m worried about nature. I’m very worried, because nature is being ruined. Think that in the North Pole the ice has melted and one can navigate there. Think of the South Pole, a mass ice of 200 km2 has fallen because the earth is warming. Think that the seas are rising and entering the Earth; think that the fish of the sea are ruined because we throw many things into the sea. That’s why I’m worried about nature. We must all be worried about nature, and we must help. For example, if you are in a river or on a beach and you drink a Coca-Cola, do you throw the bottle into the river or the sea? Do you do that? We have to take care of nature, we have to take care of Creation, because nature contains us, and we must not ruin it. I’m worried about nature, and you must also be worried about it. Thank you very much for being concerned about nature. Thank you very much.
[12th From whom does a child learn to respect the planet?]
Presenter: Now we have little Chris, 8, from Haiti.
Chris: Good morning, Pope Francis. My name is Chris and I’m from Haiti. Now that adults, in their behaviour, are leaving us a contaminated world, from whom must we children learn to respect the planet?
Pope Francis: Good morning. We must learn to guard the planet, learn from teachers, from professors, also from people that are able to think, from parents, in the family. Take care of Creation. Please, as children, do everything possible to protect Creation. Let’s say it together: “Take care of Creation! Together! [Once again, repeat]. Thank you.
[13thWhat does the Pope do during a day?]
Presenter: Now we have Drew, 11, from Australia.
Drew: Hello, Pope Francis, my name is Drew and I’m from Australia. I was wondering how you spend your time during the day?
Pope Francis: What do I do during the day? I work. And there is much work here. I work listening to people, putting things in order, thinking of how to go ahead, making things improve. I work; I get up early , pray and work. Work is something good, because — I’ll tell you something –, the person who doesn’t work, the person who gets used to not working, is that a good person? Yes or no? [“No”]. To work is healthy. Let’s say it together! [they repeat] You must learn to work always: work gives us dignity. God’s commandment is “earn your bread with your work,” earn life, work. Work gives us dignity. All together: “work gives us dignity.” I can’t hear . . . [they repeat louder]. Thank you, bravo.
[14thHow does one avoid wasting food?]
Presenter: Now we have little Salma, 7, from Ghana.
Salma: Hello, Pope Francis,I’m Salma and I’m from Ghana. May I ask you a question? How can we avoid people wasting so many things?
Pope Francis: You’ve asked an intelligent question, and you’ve asked: how can we avoid people wasting so many things? Please, don’t waste, don’t waste food, because there are people that don’t eat; use food always, don’t throw it away: food is a grace from God. Each one of us must learn not to waste food. We say it say it together: “Let’s not waste food.” All together! And if at midday some food is left over, eat it at night, but don’t throw it away: to throw food away is an ugly sin. Thank you, thank you. Bravo.
We’ve talked about many beautiful things, but the most beautiful thing that comes to the heart is peace, because you don’t want war, you want to have peace in the world. Now, all together, we make the sign of peace, and we take one another by the hand, we greet one another. We greet one another here by shaking hands in the sign of peace.[Singing, while all exchange a squeeze of hands].
Now. All together, we are going to pray a bit, we are going to pray in silence and I’ll give you the blessing. We receive the blessing in silence. We pray to the Virgin: “Hail Mary . . . “
And now, in silence, we receive the blessing, and each one thinks of the family, thinks of those one wishes to have this blessing reach. May Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit bless you.
Translation of the Italian original into Spanish by ZENIT’s Editorial Director and, into English, by Virginia M. Forrester