On April 15th, after visiting a crumbling public housing complex outside of Rome, Pope Francis celebrated mass at St Paul of the Cross parish. The pope takes part in a question and answers session with youngsters each time he visits a parish. As usual, the Pope was answering typical questions from the children such as ‘How did you feel when you were elected Pope?’ He warmly answered all questions asked.
But then Emanuele came to the microphone to ask his question amongst the crowd.
When he reached the stand, Emanuele froze up and couldn’t bring himself to ask the question. Obviously under stress, Emanuele took deep breaths before saying ‘I can’t do it’ repeatedly.
Mgr Leonardo Sapienza (seen above), a papal aide, tried to comfort the distressed boy and encourage him to speak but Emanuele was too nervous and started to cry.
At this point, Pope Francis intervened. He said ‘Come, come to me, Emanuele and whisper [your question] in my ear’.
Mgr Sapienza helped the boy up to the platform where the pope was seated. He approached Pope Francis nervously whilst sobbing and the pope enwrapped Emanuele in a big embrace, comforting him. Pope Francis moved the microphone away from them and spoke softly to Emanuele so no one else could hear their private discussion.
The two were in an embrace for a minute or two whilst Emanuele shared his question and thoughts with Pope Francis, before returning to his seat.
‘I asked Emanuele’s permission to say publicly the question he asked me and he said yes. So I will tell you’
‘Emanuele asked “A little while ago my father passed away. He was a nonbeliever, but he had all four of his children baptised. He was a good man. Is dad in heaven?”‘
The pope continued ‘How beautiful to hear a son say of his father, he was good. And what a beautiful witness of a son who inherited the strength of his father, who had the courage to cry in front of all of us. If that man was able to make his children like that, then it’s true, he was a good man. He was a good man.’
‘That man did not have the gift of faith, he wasn’t a believer, but he had his children baptised. He had a good heart,’
‘God is the one who says who goes to heaven’ the pope explained.
The pope then turned to direct the children and used the question as a learning moment for all watching. He asked them to think about what God would believe; ‘What do you think? A father’s heart. God has a dad’s heart. And with a dad who was not a believer, but who baptised his children and gave them that bravura, do you think God would be able to leave him far from himself?’
The pope asked the children ‘Does God abandon his children? Does God abandon his children when they are good?’ The children answered ‘No’. The pope proclaimed ‘There, Emanuele, that is the answer’
‘God surely was proud of your father, because it is easier as a believer to baptise your children than to baptize them when you are not a believer. Surely this pleased God very much.’
The crowd was clearly moved by the moment Emanuele and Pope Francis had shared and we are too. If you would like to see the video clip of the moment, you can watch it on youtube here.
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