Pope encourages children to speak up, work for peace
Peace begins with "the heart and an outstretched hand," Pope Francis told more than 6,000 children aged 7-12 during a meeting at the Vatican.
A girl listens to Pope Francis answer questions from children from different parts of the world during the event "Let Us Learn from Boys and Girls" in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Nov. 6, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a celebration of life, peace, joy and harmony, thousands of children representing young people on every continent greeted Pope Francis during an afternoon event in the Vatican's Paul VI hall.
Children from different parts of the world, such as the Amazon and favelas of Brazil, sang on stage, and Italian pop star Mr. Rain performed his hit single, "Super Heroes."
The event Nov. 6 was sponsored by the Dicastery for Culture and Education and was attended by more than 6,000 children from different parts of Italy and other parts of the world.
Dedicated to the importance of peace, fraternity and respect for others and creation, the event was titled, "Let Us Learn from Boys and Girls," to focus attention on children's simple and sincere desires for peace and harmony in the world.
"There is much to learn from you," the pope said. "I am always happy when I meet you because you teach me something new every time. For example, you remind me how beautiful life is in its simplicity and how beautiful it is to be together!"
"Two big gifts God has given us," he said, are life and being together with simplicity.
The pope encouraged the kids to embrace their adolescence, which is "a wonderful age" and to make their thoughts, feelings and experiences heard by adults.
He asked the children to remember all the other kids their age who are suffering from war, hunger, climate disasters and poverty.
"You know there are bad people who do bad things, they make war and destroy. Do you want to do bad things?" the pope asked. After the children yelled, "No!" he asked, "Do you want to help?" to which they replied with enthusiasm, "Yes!"
The pope cut short his prepared speech in order to dedicate more time to questions from the children, who asked him questions about climate change, wars, his friends, his work habits and what he dreams about at night.
"I don't know what I dream because I am asleep!" he joked as the kids laughed. Sometimes, he said, he dreams about things he remembers when he was a child. "Dreaming is beautiful," he said, because it shows something alive is stirring inside.
With each question, the pope had a tidbit of wisdom for the kids to remember, making them repeat each phrase a number of times.
His words of advice included: "Whoever destroys the earth, destroys us." "Take care of nature because nature takes care of us." "Work gives us dignity." "Do not waste food." "Let's work for peace." "Peace is made with the heart and an outstretched hand." "Children's voices are needed" because "kids are messengers of peace." "When you are angry, drink a glass of water before you respond."
When a 9-year-old boy from Syria asked the pope, "Why do they kill kids during a war and no one defends them?" the pope said, "This shows the wickedness of war."
That innocent civilians and children are killed in wartime, he said, "is cruelty," and he led the children in praying the Our Father for all children killed in wars.
He urged all the children to work for peace after a 12-year-old girl from Palestine asked whether there would be no more peace if World War III broke out.
"We have to work for peace," the pope said, asking everyone wave to the girl so she could let the people back in Palestine know that everyone there said "Hello."
"Peace is beautiful!" the pope said, as the children repeated it loudly.