On Feb. 22, 2016, twelve child co-authors of the book Dear Pope
Francis spent an afternoon with their co-author Pope Francis. The children
came from twelve different countries, including China, Belgium, Australia,
Kenya, and the United States. These children’s questions and illustrations are
featured in the Pope’s first and only children’s book, along with the Pope’s
The Holy Father talked with his young guests at the
Vatican. During the extraordinary visit, each of the children gave Pope Francis
a gift from their homeland, including maple syrup from Canada, a woven painting
from India, Ugg boots from Australia, and a soccer ball from the United States.
The Pope in turn greeted and blessed each child and then presented them with a
copy of Dear Pope Francis as well as a “Jesus the Teacher” plush
figure. It was the first time the children had seen the Pope’s response to their
questions. The children also had the unique opportunity to ask Pope Francis
additional questions and even sing a song for him.
The impact of this
once-in-a-lifetime experience for the children was poignantly expressed by Ryan
from Canada, “One moment, I felt excited, but then I thought, this is
probably the only time I'm ever going to meet him, so I don't want to blow
this.” Clara from Ireland said that she would be friends with the kids she met
on this special journey for the rest of her life.
The trip, which
included a tour of Rome for the children and their parents, was sponsored by
Loyola Press, publisher of Dear Pope Francis. Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J.,
who helped facilitate and edit this unique project, offered some insight as to
why the Pope immediately said “Yes” to the book and visit: “The Pope knows that
when he speaks to adults, children may not listen…but when he speaks to
children, then adults listen.” In this way, the children’s visit to the Vatican
helped bring the world’s attention to the Pope’s desire to share a message of
mercy with all people.