ROME – Pope Francis made his pastoral visit to the Roman parish of San Paolo della Croce a Corviale this week. During his visit, Pope Francis visited the young and old. He celebrated Mass and spent time with the sick and impoverished. Pope Francis also answered questions from children during their Catechism class.
Some children asked about how the pope felt during the first moments after his election. The pope answered that he “felt that God wanted that. I got up and moved forward, I didn’t feel anything spectacular”. Other children asked questions about baptism, and how they should live as children of God.
But one of the children gathered at the event, Emanuele, had a much more personal question to ask Pope Francis.
When it came time for Emanuele to come up to the microphone and ask Pope Francis a question, the child burst into tears. “Come to me, Emanuele”, Pope Francis said, giving Emanuele a long hug. The pope asked the child to share his question, which Emanuele whispered in the pontiff’s ear.
After Emanuele went back to his seat, Pope Francis addressed those gathered.
“If only we could cry like Emanuele when we have pain in our hearts. He cries for his father who died, and had the courage to do so before us because there is love in his heart for his dad,” the pope explained.
After asking Emanuele’s permission to share his question with those gathered, Pope Francis shared with the crowd that Emanuele’s father had died recently. Even though Emanuele and his three siblings were baptized, their father was an atheist. Emanuele asked Pope Francis if his father, a good man, was in Heaven.
Pope Francis reflected on what Emanuele had shared. “It’s nice that a son says that about his father, that he ‘was good.’ If that man was able to raise his children like that, then he was a good man. God is proud of your father,” he told the boy.
Then, Pope Francis asked the crowd: “Do you think that God would be able to leave a man like him far from Him? Do you think that?” The crowd responded “No”, but Pope Francis asked them to shout their answer “Louder, with courage.”
The pope also asked the crowd if God abandons His children, to which the crowd responded “No!”
Then came the answer to Emanuele’s question. “God has the heart of a father, your father was a good man, he is in heaven with Him, be sure,” the pope said. “God has a father’s heart and would God ever abandon a non-believing father who baptized his children? God was certainly proud of your father, because it is easier to be a believer and have your children baptized than to be a non-believer and have your children baptized.”
In a final word of comfort, the pope encouraged Emanuele to pray for his father, and talk to his father, even though he was no longer alive on earth. “Pray for your dad, talk to your dad. This is the answer,” the pope said. He also thanked Emanuele for his question and his courage.