Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14
This line from the Gospel of Matthew comes to mind after reading Dear Pope Francis, Pope Francis’ first and only (to date) children’s book.
Dear Pope Francis is a collection of letters addressed to the pope from children all over the world. Out of approximately 250 letters written to the pope in 14 different languages from 26 countries, 30 were chosen. Each letter is accompanied by a photograph of the child, and a handwritten and illustrated letter, where each child asks Pope Francis a question. Pope Francis does not speak down to the children, but answers each question thoughtfully and purposefully. Even he admits, “But these are tough questions!”
Some questions are so joyful and childlike, especially a question from a six-year-old from Albania named Prajla, who writes, “When you were a child, did you like dancing?” And Wing, age 8 from China, who asks the pope, “Why do you like to play soccer?” However, other questions are incredibly deep and difficult.
Ryan, age 8 from Canada, writes, “It’s an honour to ask you my question. My question is, what did God do before the world was made?” To which Pope Francis responds, “If I told you that God was doing nothing before he created the world, I would be wrong….think of it this way: before creating anything, God loved. That’s what God was doing: God was loving. God always loves. God is love….Before doing anything else, God was love, and God was loving.”
|Ryan, Age 8, Canada, asks Pope Francis a question in his letter.|
There are other questions (and answers) that will inspire children and adults alike. Ivan, a 13-year-old from China, asks Pope Francis what will happen to his grandfather who is non-Catholic. The answer Pope Francis gives him shows why he is known as the pope of mercy.
Mohammed, age 10 from Syria, asks Pope Francis if the world will be as it is again in the past. Maximus, age 10 from Singapore, asks why God created us human even though he knew that we would sin against him. Luca, age 7 from Australia, who asks, “My mum is in heaven. Will she grow angel wings?”
These are just a few of the questions found in Dear Pope Francis.
Out of the mouths of babes. These are 30 questions that even adults would like to know the answer to. These children ask questions that adults, out of spiritual blindness, are too afraid to ask. These 30 children, in their innocence, seek the truth. And Pope Francis acknowledges their questions with grace and humility. He compliments their drawings. By answering these questions, he embodies Matthew 19:14, letting the little children come to him.
Father Antonio Spadaro and Loyola University Press are the people responsible for making Dear Pope Francis a reality. Fr. Spadaro is a Jesuit in Rome, and the director of La Civilta Cattolica, a Roman Catholic magazine. He delivered these 30 letters in person to the pope, and he transcribed Pope Francis’ verbal responses to the questions. Fr. Spadaro writes at the end of the book that when Pope Francis answered each question, he would answer as if the child was sitting directly in front of him, and he would also imagine that child’s surroundings, whether it be a war-torn refugee camp in Syria, or a beautiful garden in Europe, or a small apartment in China.
Dear Pope Francis is a book that Christians and non-Christians alike will find interesting, especially those who have questions about Christianity, or those who want to know more about what Pope Francis says about the Catholic faith.