Children can ask deep, difficult questions. Sometimes the questions they asked as so poignant as to bring the Pope to tears.
Pope Francis admitted as much in a January 4, 2018, audience with a group of Romanian youngsters, guests of an orphanage, aided by the NGO “FDP Protagonists in Education,” which has been operating in Romania for years.
It was the last of six questions submitted by the young people in the audience that struck an emotional chord with the Holy Father: “When I was two months old, my mother left me in an orphanage. I looked for my mother at 21 and stayed with her for two weeks, but she didn’t behave well with me, and so I left. My father is dead. What is my fault if she doesn’t love me? Why doesn’t she accept me?”
The Pope’s answer (in part): “When I read your question, before giving the instructions to write the discourse, I wept. I was close to you with a couple of tears. Because I don’t know; you’ve given me so much; the others also, but you caught me, perhaps, with my defenses down. When one talks of a mother there is always something…and at that moment you made me cry…It’s not a question of fault; it’s a question of adults’ great fragility, due in your case to so much poverty, so many social injustices that crush little ones and the poor, and also due to so much spiritual poverty. Yes, spiritual poverty hardens hearts and causes what seems impossible, that a mother abandon her child…Your mother loves you but doesn’t know how to do it, how to express it. She can’t because life is hard; it’s unjust. And she doesn’t know how to express that love that is within her, or how to caress you. I promise you that I will pray so that one day you will see that love. Don’t be skeptical; have hope.”
The earlier question may not have brought the Pope to physical tears, but all were moving:
- Why is life so difficult and why do we quarrel so often among ourselves? And we cheat? You priests tell us to go to church; however, no sooner we leave we err and commit sins. So, why did I go into the church? If I believe that God is in my soul, why is it important to go to church?
- Why are there parents that love healthy children and not those that are sick or that have problems?
- Last year, one of our friends, who stayed in the orphanage, died. He died during Holy Week, on Holy Thursday. An Orthodox priest said to us that he died a sinner and, therefore, would not go to Paradise. I don’t think that’s true.
- Why didn’t we have this good fortune? Why? What does it mean?
- It so happens that I feel alone and I don’t know what meaning my life has. My child is in foster care and some people judge me as not being a good mother. Instead, I believe my daughter is well and that I made the right decision, also because we see one another often.
The Pope responded with the love of God, pointing out the many “whys” that seem to have no answer but are unraveled over time. “Thus, little by little, God transforms our heart with His mercy, and He also transforms our life.” And he pointed out that some “whys” don’t have an answer.
He continued by admitting that priests make mistakes, we suffer from sin, parents are fragile, we need to overcome our egoism – but the encounter with Jesus heals. No matter how much pain and suffering we face, God wants to bring healing, the Holy Father said.
FDP was set up in 1996 by Italian and Romanian volunteers, with the support of the Italian organization AVSI. The initial name of the organization was the Foundation for People’s Development.