Pope Francis’ Meeting With Participants of the ‘Children’s Train’

Pope Speaks to Children Affected by Earthquakes in Central Italy About Their Experiences and Trust in God

© PHOTO.VA - OSSERVATORE ROMANO

On Saturday, Pope Francis met with 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 some 400 children from municipalities in Central Italy affected by this year’s earthquakes. Focusing on the safeguarding of Creation, this year’s theme is: “Little Travellers, Great Ambassadors, Custodians of the Earth.”

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The Holy Father’s Words

Pope Francis:

Boys and girls, I’m told that I must speak, but I like to listen! Would you like to speak? . . . Come, come. Would you like to speak? Come; tell me something. Tell me something, recount something; say something.

Girl:

I want to go to a restaurant.

Pope Francis:

Ah, she wants to go to a restaurant! She is hungry; she wants to eat!

Girl:

Yes! Then I’ll go home.

Pope Francis:

When she said: “I want to go to a restaurant,” it was her way of saying to the Pope: “Don’t be too long! . . . [he laughs, they laugh]. She wants to eat!” You are good. Go back, go back there. And you? . . . Do you wish to speak? . . .

Boy:

Yes! . . . Today my mother brought a parcel . . .

Pope Francis:

Good. And you, what do you want to say?

Girl:

I want to say that today I’m going to the sea.

Pope Francis:

You’re going to the sea? Tell us . . .

Girl:

Today I’ll go to the sea with my mother and my sister and with my cousin. They are called Yasmin and Alessandra. I’m six years old, my sister is eight and Yasmin ten.

Pope Francis:

All right. Good.

Boy:

I represent Norcia and Cascia; the earthquake destroyed the majority of houses and churches. Since the earthquake happened, a river has overflowed that up to then, was dry. After the earthquake, given the strong tremors, the water returned and now it has very great force. We want to thank you for having hosted us, be it us children and young people of Norcia, be it all the other children and young people.

Pope Francis:

Thank you. And I would like one of you to tell me how those days were after the earthquake, you . . . you, come, come, tell me.

Boy: They were difficult.

Pope Francis:

Ah yes. Tell me, why were they difficult? Tell me, tell me . . .

Boy:

We had difficulties because of the collapsed houses and palaces – and all our schools.

Pope Francis:  

The schools too?

Boy:

Yes.

Pope Francis: When I went there the school was in a tent . . .

Boy:

It’s true.

Pope Francis:

Also now?

Boy:

Yes.

Pope Francis:

And you, now, how have you recovered, all of you?

Boy:

We have recovered because they brought us <playhouses> and new schools.

Pope Francis:

We must recover, you know? When these disasters come, there is the strength to recover.

Boy: It’s true.

Pope Francis:

And you did well.

Boy:

Thank you.

Pope Francis:

Thank you, thanks

Girl:

For a time we had school in the afternoon, because we were on the modules. Now, however, we have school . . . in the morning again and so we have taken up the normal schedule again.

Pope Francis:

That is, normal things have begun again?

Girl:

Yes, normally. We have started school again in the morning until half past one.

Pope Francis:

None of you lost the year?

Girl:

No, no.

Pope Francis:

That’s good.

Girl:

Yes, indeed. . .

Pope Francis: And how did you see the people, the courage of the people? What did you see there?

Girl:

I believe that, thanks to the headmistress, we went back to school immediately, also after several problems with the school that, in any case, was unfit, but we went back immediately, without problems.

Pope Francis:

Thank you.

Girl:

Thank You.

Girl:

My name is Gaia, I am from Acquasanta.

Pope Francis:

From Acquasanta . . . Good.

Gia:  

On August 24 (date of the earthquake] all my classmates, all those who frequented the school, in reality it was a great fright, because we didn’t know who was alive, what happened to the school, to others’ houses . . . Fortunately, all were saved. At Acquasanta, let’s say there aren’t any particular damages. However, our school was [unfit] and then they reconstructed it.

Pope Francis:

And did all collaborate and work to reconstruct it?

Gaia:

Yes.

Pope Francis:

And that’s good, because when all work together, all for the same purpose, things go better, no?

Gaia:

We say that, as project, we in fact started the school again.

 

Pope Francis:

Thank you. Good, good.

Gaia:

Thank you. Bye-bye!

Boy:

My name is Juan Camillo and I come from Norcia. After the earthquake, we did so much to start again, to do so we could go to school. Afterwards, we went into a [marquee], all together, then we went in tents for a few days, then in high schools and in the end we went to modules, and we went only in the afternoon. Then. Towards March, we started in the morning in modules close to the hospital. Then we continued to go in the morning and it was much better because we were much fresher in the morning. In the afternoon, instead, we were very tired.

Pope Francis:

Good.

Juan Camillo:

Bye-bye.

Girl:

I am Ginevra and my sister is at Fiastra . . . My grandmother’s house collapsed. My grandmother finally was saved, because her house collapsed completely in the earthquake, and not my sister and my grandmother have left. Then, they are reconstructing the house now because they must repair it.

Pope Francis:

Tell me . . . Have you finished?

Ginevra:

Yes.

Pope Francis:

Thank you.

Girl:

I am Maria Vittoria and I come from Cascia. I would like to say that, after the earthquake, there were many problems. First, we were in a company, then we were given a wooden structure. I would like you to come to Cascia one of these days.

Pope Francis:

Thank you. One word; I have listened to you. What you have lived was an awful thing, because it was a calamity. Is it true or not? It’s a calamity, and calamities wound the mind, but the Lord helps us to recover. Do you or do you not trust in the Lord?

Children:

Yes!

Pope Francis:

<Are you> sure?

Children:

Yes!

Pope Francis:

And also in Our Lady?

Children:

Yes!

Pope Francis:

And now, if we trust, let’s thank Our Lady for the good things she has given us in this calamity: Hail Mary . . .

One of the things that pleases Jesus most, one of the words that please the Lord most is the word “thank you so much.” I want to thank you and say to you “thank you” for this visit, for having come here, for having come also to remember that awful moment. However, all of us must also say thank you to these children and young people – boys and girls – who have come from Rio de Janeiro, and have played things of my homeland, which have moved me. And I invite them to come close, so that we can all say “thank you” to them. They are called “Tomorrow’s Tide”: applaud them!

[Blessing] And thank you so much for the visit!

Ah, was the train beautiful?

Children:

Yes!

Pope Francis:

Are you hungry?

Children:

Yes!

Pope Francis:

Did you hear <that>? They are hungry [They say to him: it’s already ready!] It’s ready, already ready . . . Good-bye, thank you.

[Original Text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

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