‘No Amusing the Devil’ (Pope’s Q & A With Children at Roman Parish)

At San Pier Damiani ai Monti di San Paolo, Pope Warns Children Against Throwing Stones at One Another

Pope Francis went on a pastoral visit to the Roman parish of San Pier Damiani ai Monti di San Paolo in Casal Bernocchi, Acilia (on the southern periphery of Rome) on the afternoon of Sunday, May 21, 2017.

Upon his arrival, at 3:40 p.m., the Pope met in the Sports Center of Casal Bernocchi with the catechism children and young people and with all who frequent the center. During the meeting, the Holy Father answered some of the children’s questions.

Then, after going by car to the parish buildings, at 4:15 p.m., the Pontiff greeted the sick, the Neocatechumenal Community and the poor helped by Caritas. Finally, he heard the Confession of four penitents.

At 5:55 p.m. the Holy Father presided over the celebration of Holy Mass in the parish church. After the proclamation of the Gospel, the Pope gave an off-the-cuff homily.

Here is a working translation of the questions and answers of the Pope with the children at the Sports Center:

 * * *

The Holy Father’s Questions and Answers

Questions:

What can we children do to save the world? How did you come to understand your priestly vocation? What can we do to follow Jesus better? Pope Francis, I want to ask you what sport you practiced when you were my age? I am 11 years old. I would also like to know if you played soccer and what role did you cover?

Pope Francis:

It’s a good question! … You asked it: “What can we do to save, to help . . . You said to “save the world.” But the world is big! A child – think about it, think well before answering – can a boy, a child, a girl, a little girl help to save the world? … Can they or not?

Children:

They can’t . . .

Pope Francis:

They can do nothing? . . . You don’t count at all? . . . Can they or can’t they?

Children:

They can!

Pope Francis:

See! A bit louder, as I can’t hear . . .

Children:

[Shouting] They can!

Pope Francis:

And I would like to hear you, which one of you is the best to answer this question – think well: how can I help Jesus to save the world? How can I help Jesus to save the world? Those who wish to answer, raise your hand . . . Raise your hand if you want to answer. [Someone says: “With prayer”] Can we help Jesus with prayer to save the world? Can we or can’t we?

Children:

We can!

Pope Francis:

But what’s going on? Are you all asleep?

Children:

No!

Pope Francis: 

O, it’s the sun . . . The sun makes you sleepy . . . With prayer — very good. One other thing. You . . .

Little Boy:

Respecting persons.

Pope Francis:

Respecting persons. And, are persons respected?

Children:

Yes!

Pope Francis:

Daddy, Mommy, Granddad, Grandma, are they respected?

Children:

Yes!

Pope Francis:

And the persons I don’t know, who reside in the district, are they respected?

Children:

Yes!

Pope Francis:

And persons who live on the street, the homeless, are they respected?

Children: 

Yes!

Pope Francis:

Yes, all, all persons are respected. Shall we say it together?

Pope and Children:  

All persons are respected!

Pope Francis:

And must I respect someone who doesn’t love me?

Children: 

Yes!

Pope Francis:

Are you sure?

Children:

Yes!

Pope Francis:

But wouldn’t it be better to give him a slap?

Children:

No!

Pope Francis:

Really?

Children:

Yes.

Pope Francis:

See: someone who doesn’t love me is also respected.

Pope and Children:

One who doesn’t love me is also respected.

Pope Francis: And someone who has hurt me once, think well about this: what must I do? If a person has hurt me, can I hurt him?

Children:

No!

Pope Francis:

No, it’s not good. Can I telephone the Mafia to do something?

Children:

No . . .

Pope Francis::

You’re not convinced . . . Can this be done?

Children:

No!

Pope Francis:

Can deals be done with the Mafia?

Children:

No!

Pope Francis:

No! Those [who hurt us] must also be respected. You answered well. See with how many things we can help Jesus to save the world. And this is good; it’s very good! And if I’ve done my tasks at home and mommy lets me go out to play with my girl friends or boy friends, or play a match, is this good?

Children: 

Yes!

Pope Francis:

To play – think well – to play, to play well, does this help Jesus to save the world?

Children:

Yes . . .

Pope Francis:

You’re not convinced . . .

Children:

Yes!

Pope Francis: Yes! — because joy helps Jesus to save the world. Let’s all say it together.

Pope and Children:

Joy helps Jesus to save the world.

Pope Francis:

Joy is something very good, very good. Are you joyous today?

Children:

 Yes!

Pope Francis: 

Yes? Are you joyous?

Children:

Yes!

Pope Francis:

And this is very good. And I think that with this I have answered “what can we do to help Jesus save the world.” And you think about it, later, always.

Then, when I was your age I played soccer. You know, I wasn’t good in soccer and, where I come from, those who aren’t good in soccer are called “pata dura” (hard leg). Did you get it? I was a pata dura, and therefore I was usually the goalkeeper, so I didn’t have to move: it was my role . . . It’s not a bad word, it can be said, pata dura, it’s not a bad word.

And another question was: how did I come to understand my vocation. Each one of us has a place in life. Jesus wants some to marry, to have a family; He wants another to be a priest, another to be a sister . . . but every one of us has a path in life. And for the majority it is to be like you, like all, like your parents: faithful lay people who make a good family, who have the children grow up, who have the faith grow . . . And I was in a family: we were five siblings, we were happy. Daddy worked, he’d come from work . . . at that time there was work – and we played . . . Once – I’ll make you laugh, but don’t do what I’m telling you! – we had a competition to play as parachutists and we took an umbrella and went to the terrace and one of my brothers threw himself down first from the terrace And he barely saved his life! Those are dangerous games. But we were happy. Why? Because daddy and mommy helped us to get ahead in school, and they were also concerned about us. It’s very good, it’s very good. . . Listen well: it’s very good to be married in life, it’s very good. It’s very good to have a family, a daddy and a mommy, to have grandparents, uncles . . . Have you understood this? It’s very good; it’s a grace. And each one of you has parents, has grandparents, uncles, has a family. And why don’t we greet them now? Applaud them all, all of them . . . [applaud] Your parents sacrifice themselves for you, to make you grow, and this is a good thing, it’s a beautiful vocation: to make a family.

But there is also the other vocation: to be a sister, to be a priest. And I one day felt – but suddenly – I was 16 and I felt that the Lord wanted me to be a priest. Here I am. I am a priest. This is the answer. One feels it in the heart: when a boy feels a liking in his heart, and then that liking goes on, and he feels love for a girl, and then they get engaged and marry, so you feel in the heart when the Lord says to you: “You must go on the path to become a priest.” And that’s how I felt it, as good things are felt in life. Because it’s a good thing! Understood?

All right, you are tired of being here; the sun is strong . . .

Children:

No!

Pope Francis:

Now there is a bit of a breeze, but . . . I don’t remember: must I slap someone who doesn’t love me?

Children:

No!

Pope Francis:

Oh, I’d forgotten. And must I pray for persons who hate me?

Children:

Yes!

Pope Francis:

Yes, yes, pray for one who doesn’t love me, for one . . . I must pray. And must I obey mommy and daddy?

Children:

Yes!

Pope Francis:

I, or my neighbor?

Children:

All!

Pope Francis:

Ah, each one! Each one say “I.”

Children:

I!

Pope Francis:

I must obey daddy and mommy: all!

Children:

I must obey daddy and mommy.

Pope Francis:

It’s very important, because they sacrifice themselves for us. Have you understood?

Children:

Yes.

Pope Francis:

Very good, and now, what do we do? Look, we will say a prayer. We talked about prayer in the first question. Now we will pray for one another. Hold one another by the hand, all of you, as brothers, as friends — all of you hold one another by the hand. And let’s pray to Our Lady, who is our Mother: Hail Mary . . .

And now I will give you all a blessing. In silence, each one of you think of your parents, relatives, friends, think also of your enemies, of people that hate you or don’t love you. And may this blessing descend also on them, on all.

[Blessing]

Thank you!

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Zenit, Virginia M. Forrester]

 

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