Pope responds to children's questions in new book

The Pope answers questions on war, sin and free will in the new book
The Pope answers questions on war, sin and free will in the new book

Letters and drawings from children from Jesuit institutions around the world – including in the UK – feature in a new book from Pope Francis, which attempts to answer his question: ‘What did God do before the world was made?’ The six to 13-year-olds, who come from five continents, wrote to the Pope, asking him questions on a wide variety of topics. Their letters and drawings were taken to Casa Santa Marta last summer by Fr Antonio Spadaro SJ, the director of La Civilta Cattolica, and 31 of them have been brought together in ‘Love before the world’.

Published last week in Italian, 'L'amore prima del mondo' takes the form of a dialogue between Pope Francis and Fr Spadaro that gave the Holy Father the opportunity to address some key issues in a simple and direct way. Questions raised by the children included: how did Jesus manage to walk on water? And why did God create us if he knew we were going to sin against him?

The importance of prayer

The book also addresses questions to Pope Francis about his personal journey. A boy from the United Kingdom, for instance, asked him: "What was your hardest choice in your mission for faith?" The Pope responded: "There are many hard choices, but I have to say that the type of decision that is most difficult for me is to remove someone from a responsible job or a position of trust, or a path they are following, because they are not suitable." But there are many other questions of a broad nature in the 80-page book, including some about the devil and guardian angels. To address these, the Pope stresses the importance of prayer, or evokes fantastic images: "God defeated the devil on the cross,” he says. “The devil is like the big scary dragons who are defeated and killed. They have a very long tail which, even if they are beaten and killed, continues to move."

On the question of sin and free will, Pope Francis reminds the children that God created humanity to be like him – free. “And being free includes the possibility of sinning. ... Freedom can be frightening because it cannot be planned. But it is beautiful and it is the greatest gift." Another question – from a child in Nigeria – asks how wars and atrocities can be resolved, to which the Pope replies:  "It is necessary to encourage people of good will to speak against war. I cannot solve the conflicts in the world, but you and I can try to make this a better world. We need to convince everyone that the best way to win a war is not to enter into one. It is not easy, I know. But I try. You can try too."

‘L’amore prima del mondo’ ('Love before the world') is published by Rizzoli and is now available in Italian bookshops. It is due to be issued in other languages in due course.