If you had the opportunity to ask Pope Francis anything, what would you ask? 259 children from 26 countries, writing in 14 languages, had that opportunity. They sent Pope Francis letters containing questions, comments, and corresponding drawings. The Pope answered 30 of these letters, sharing his responses with Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., who then turned them over to Loyola Press, a Jesuit ministry. The questions, drawings, photos of the children, and Pope Francis’ responses are all included in Dear Pope Francis, a book made to be shared with children and adults throughout the world.
While some of the questions are sweet and innocent, such as a six-year-old girl asking, “When you were a child, did you like dancing,” many were not so easy. Children wonder about complex issues, problems, and ideas. Questions such as “What did God do before the world was made?” and “If God loves us so much and didn’t want us to suffer, why didn’t he defeat the devil?” and “How can you settle conflicts in the world?” have no simple answers.
Pope Francis loves children. He views them as the future of the Church and the world and knows that treating them with kindness and respect is of the utmost importance. The Pope’s answers to these questions are honest and wise. He truly wants to speak with these children, and by extension, to all of us. As Fr. Spadaro states, “I realize that the language of Pope Francis is simple and that he lives in simple words. . . Pope Francis’s responses to these questions will do good for all, and especially for those who refuse to become simple like children.”
The question that spoke most to me is one that I wonder about even as an adult. Maximus, a ten-year-old boy from Singapore, inquired, “Why did God create us even though he knew we would sin against him?” Pope Francis replied, “Because God has created us to be like himself. God created us to be free. Freedom is the greatest gift he has given us. Do you know that? . . . Freedom can scare people because it can’t be programmed like a machine. And exactly for this reason, freedom is beautiful and God’s greatest gift.”
A copy of Dear Pope Francis should be in every Catholic school and parish library. It also makes a great gift. It is a beautiful book, enjoyable to read and ponder for children, teens, and adults.