Here is Pope Francis’ dialogue with children yesterday during an audience organized by “The Peace Factory” Foundation. The Pope responded to numerous questions posed by children taking part in the meeting. Also included is the address prepared by the Holy Father and given for publication
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Dear Children, good morning!
And dear non-children, good morning!
I heard the questions you asked. I have the questions written here … there are 13. But you were very good to ask the questions! I will speak, beginning with the questions you have asked.
–Chiara: “I often quarrel with my sister. Have you never quarrelled with your family?”
–The Pope: It is a real question. I am tempted to ask this question: Raise your hand if you have never quarrelled with a brother or with someone of the family, in fact never! … We have all done so! It is part of life, because “I want to play a game,” the other wants to play another, and then we quarrel …. However, in the end what is important is to make peace. Yes, we quarrel, but do not end the day without making peace. Always keep this in mind. Sometimes I’m right, the other has made a mistake. How am I going to apologize? I don’t apologize, but I make a gesture and the friendship continues. This is possible: not to let our having quarrelled go to the next day. This is bad! Do not end the day without making peace. I have also quarrelled many times, also now …I get a bit heated but I always seek to make peace together. It is human to argue. What is important is that it not remain, that afterwards there is peace. Understood?
–Second: “I would like to recite a poem to the Pope. The title of the poem is ”Peace Is Built.”
–The Pope: It is true; peace is built every day. It doesn’t mean that there are no wars. Sadly there will be wars … We think that one day there won’t be wars, and then? Peace is built every day, so as not to fall into another war. Peace is not an industrial product: peace is a product of craftsmanship. It is built every day with our work, with our life, with our love, with our closeness, with our loving one another. Understood? Peace is built every day!
–Q: “Holiness, but don’t you get tired of being in the midst of so many people? Wouldn’t you like some peace?
–The Pope: Often I would like some peace, to rest a bit more. This is true. However, to be with people does not take away peace. Yes, if there is a din, noise, if one moves … but this doesn’t take away peace. What takes away peace is that we not love one another. This takes away peace! What takes peace away is jealousy, envy, avarice, to take others’ things: that takes away peace. But it is good to be with people, it does not take away peace! It tires a bit because one gets tired, I’m not a young man … but it doesn’t take away peace.
–Fourth question of an Egyptian boy. “Dear Pope, we are from poor countries and with wars. The school loves us. Why don’t powerful persons help the school?
–The Pope: Why don’t powerful persons help the school? The question can also be made a bit bigger: why don’t so many powerful persons want peace? Because they live on wars! The arms industry: this is grave! The powerful, some of the powerful, earn with the production of arms and they sell arms to this country that is against that one, and then they sell them to the one that goes against this one. It is the industry of death! And they earn. You know, cupidity does us so much harm: the desire to have more, more, more money. When we see that everything revolves around money — the economic system revolves around money and not around the person, around man, around woman, but around money — so much is sacrificed and war is made to defend money. And because of this, many people don’t want peace. More is earned with war! Money is earned, but lives are lost, culture is lost, education is lost, so many things are lost. It is because of this that they don’t want it. An elderly priest that I met some years ago said this: the devil enters through the pocket book, through cupidity. And because of this they don’t want peace!
Raphael, I was very moved by what you said. (He says it in Spanish). I was stricken. You asked your question in Spanish. You would like to know: “Is there some reason why a child, without doing anything evil, can come into the world, be born, with the problems that I have had? What do you suggest I can do so that children like me will not suffer?”
–The Pope: This question is one of the most difficult to answer. There is no answer! There was a great Russian writer, Dostoevsky , who asked the same question: why do children suffer? One can only raise one’s eyes to Heaven and wait for answers that are not found. There are no answers for this, Raphael. Instead, yes there are for the second part: “What can I do so that a child won’t suffer or suffer less?” Be close to him! Society seeks to have care centers, healing centers, also center of palliative help so that children won’t suffer; develop the education of children with sicknesses. So much work must be done. I don’t like to say — for instance — that a child is disabled. No! This child has a different ability, a different ability! He is not disabled! We all have abilities, all of us! All have the capacity to give each other something, to do something. I have no answer to the first question, but yes to the second.
–Q: “Dear Pope, is there a possibility of forgiveness for someone who has done bad things?”
–The Pope: Listen to this well: God forgives everything! Understood? It is we who don’t know how to forgive. We are the ones who cannot find ways of forgiveness, many times out of incapacity or because — that girl who asked this question has her father in prison — it is much easier to fill the prisons than to help someone go forward who has made a mistake in life. The easiest way? Let’s go to prison. And there is no forgiveness. And what does forgiveness mean? Have you fallen? Rise! I will help you to rise, to reinsert yourself in society. There is always forgiveness and we must learn to forgive, but like this: helping one who has made a mistake to be reinserted. There is a lovely song that mountain climbers sing. They say more or less this: “In the art of climbing, victory does not lie in not falling, but in not remaining fallen.” We all fall; we all make mistakes. However, our victory over ourselves and over others — for ourselves – is not to remain ‘fallen’ and to help others not to remain ‘fallen.’ And this is very difficult work, because it is easier to discard from society a person who has made a bad mistake and condemn him to death, shutting him in prison. The work must be always to reinsert, not to remain ‘fallen.’”
This is a good question: “And if a person doesn’t want to make peace with you, what will you do?”
–The Pope: First of all, respect for the person’s freedom. If this person doesn’t want to talk with me, doesn’t want to make peace with me, he has within him, I don’t say hatred, but a sentiment against me … Respect him! Pray, but never — never — seek revenge. Never! Respect. You don’t want to make peace with me, I have done everything possible to make peace, but I respect your choice. We must learn respect. In the craftsmanship of making peace, respect for persons is always, always in the first place. Understood? Respect!
–And a boy detained at Casal del Marmo asked this question: “The answer for boys like me is often prison. Do you agree with this?”
–The Pope: no, I don’t agree. I repeat what I said: it is help to rise again, to be reinserted, with education, with love, with closeness. But the solution of prison is the easiest thing to forget those who suffer! I will give you advice: when they tell you that this one is in prison, that that one is in prison, that the other is in prison, say to yourselves: “I can also make the mistake that he made.” We can all make the most awful mistakes! Never condemn! Always help to rise again and to be reinserted in society.
–Q: Dear Pope, I am nine years old and I always hear talk of peace. But what is peace? Can you explain it to me? I take advantage to tell you that in September I’m going to Lourdes with UNITALSI. Why don’t you come and guide the train so we don’t arrive late?”
–The Pope: you were good. Good! Peace is first of all that there be no wars, but also that there be joy, that there be friendship among all, that every day a step forward is taken for justice, so that there are not starving children, so that there are not sick children that do not have the possibility of being helped in their health. To do all this is to make peace. Peace is work; it isn’t being tranquil … No, no! True peace is to work, so that all will have solutions to the problems, to the needs that they have in their land, in their homeland, in their family, in their society. This is how peace is made – as I said – it is “craftsmanship.”
–You: “Dear Pope, how can religion help us in life?”
–The Pope: Religion helps us because it makes us walk in the presence of God; it help us because it gives us the Commandments, the Beatitudes; it helps us especially – all religions do – because all have a commandment that is common – to love one’s neighbor. And this “loving of one’s neighbor” helps us all for peace. It helps us all to make peace, to go forward in peace. It helps us all.
–Q: “But according to you, Pope, one day we will all be equal?”
–The Pope: This question can be answered in two ways: we are all equal — all! — but this truth is not recognized, this equality is not recognized, and therefore some are — let’s say the word, but between quotation marks — happier than others. But this isn’t a right! We all have the same rights! When this is not acknowledged, that society is unjust. It isn’t according to justice. And where there is no justice, there cannot be peace. Understood? Let’s say it together, let’s see if you are good, I would like to repeat it more than once … Be attentive, it is thus: “Where there is no justice, there is no peace!” All![They repeat more times: “Where there is no justice, there is no peace!”]
Look. Learn this well!
And the last question, the thirteenth: “After this meeting, does something really change?”
–The Pope: Always! When we do something together, something beautiful, something good, all change. All change something. And this does us good. To go forward with this meeting does us good. It does us so much good! All of us, today, must leave this meeting somewhat changed: for better or for worse?
— Children: For better!
–The Pope: Did you say for worse?
–Children: For better!
–The Pope: Changed somewhat for better.
Dear boys and girls, thank you so much for your questions. They were good. Thank you so much and pray for me.[Filmed with messages and greetings] [Blessing]
–The Pope: And work for peace! Understood?
–The Pope: How was that other saying? Where there is no justice, there is no peace. How was it?
–Children: Where there is no justice, there is no peace!
–The Pope: Once again …
–Children: Where there is no justice, there is no peace!
–The Pope: One last time …
–Children: Where there is no justice, there is no peace![Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
THE HOLY FATHER’S ADDRESSS
Dear Young people,
I thank you for your invitation to work with you in the “Factory of Peace”! It is a good place of work, because it is about building a society without injustices and violence, in which every child and youngster can be received and grow in love. There is so much need of factories of peace, because unfortunately the factories of war are not lacking! War is the fruit of hatred, of egoism, of the desire to possess always more and to prevail over others. And to oppose it you are committed to spread the culture of inclusion, of reconciliation and of encounter. In this project — you are involved in many –: you pupils of schools, belonging to different ethnic groups and religions; “The Factory of Peace” Foundation, which has organized this educational project; the teachers and parents; the Minister of Education and the Italian Episcopal Conference. It is a good way, which requires courage and effort, so that all will understand the need for a change in mentality, to guarantee the safety of the children of the planet, in particular those who inhabit areas of war and persecution. Keeping your questions in mind, I would like to give you some suggestions to work well in this building yard of peace.
I take my cue in fact from the expression “Factory of Peace.” The term “factory” tells us that peace is something that must be done, that must be built with wisdom and tenacity. However, to build a world of peace, we must begin from our “world,” that is, from the environments in which we live every day: the family, the school, the courtyard, the gymnasium, the oratory … And it is important to work together with the persons that live beside us: friends, school companions, parents and educators. There is need of everyone’s help to build a better future. It is for the adults, also the institutions, to stimulate you, to support you, to educate you to true values. And I recommend that you never surrender, not even in face of difficulties and misunderstandings. Every action of yours, every gesture in dealings with your neighbor can build peace. For instance, if it happens that you quarrel with a friend, make peace immediately, or apologize to parents and friends, when you have failed in something. The real peacemaker is the one who takes the first step towards the other. And this is not weakness, but strength, the strength of peace. How can wars end in the world if we are not capable of surmounting our little misunderstandings and quarrels? Our acts of dialogue, of forgiveness, of reconciliation are “bricks” that serve to build the edifice of peace.
Another very good thing of your “Factory” is that it has no borders: a climate of hospitality and encounter is breathed without barriers or exclusions. In face of people that come from different countries and ethnic groups, that have other traditions and religions, your attitude is that of knowledge and dialogue, for the inclusion of all, in respect of the laws of the State, And then you have understood that to build a world of peace it is indispensable to be concerned about the needs of the poorest, of those who suffer most and of those who are abandoned, also those that are far away. I am thinking of so many of your contemporaries who only because of the fact of being Christians have been chased out of their homes, of their countries, and some have been killed because they had a Bible in their hand! And thus the work of your “factory” becomes truly a work of love. To love others, especially the most disadvantaged, means to witness that every person is a gift of God – every person!
But peace itself is a gift of God, a gift to be asked for with confidence in prayer. Therefore, it is important not only to be witnesses of peace and love, but also witnesses of prayer. Prayer is to speak with God, our Father who is in Heaven, and to confide in him our desires, our joys and our displeasures. Prayer is to ask him for forgiveness every time we make a mistake or commit a sin, in the certainty that He forgives always. His goodness to us drives us also to be merciful to our brothers, forgiving them from our heart when they offend us or do us harm. And, finally, peace has a face and a heart: the face and heart of Jesus, the Son of God, who died on the cross and rose precisely to give peace to every man and to the whole of humanity. Jesus is “our peace” (Ephesians 2:14), because he pulled down the wall of hatred that separates men among themselves.
See, dear young people, and dear friends, what I wish to tell you. I thank you again for having involved me in the “Factory of Peace.” Let us work together in this great building yard. I ask you, please, not to forget to pray for me. For my part, I remember you affectionately, I pray for you and I bless you.[Original text: Italian]
[Translation by ZENIT]