Children who are brought up in religious homes are often religious themselves.
Still, as children, they have a lot of questions about heaven and death. When Pope Francis made a visit to a public housing complex in Rome, he found himself surrounded by a group of children.
He was happy to answer their questions and take some time to talk with the little children who thought so highly of him.
A lot of children asked questions like, “What is it like to be Pope?” but one little boy named Emanuel had a more personal question. He explained that his father had recently died but did not believe in God. Emanuel wanted to know if it was still possible that his father went to heaven.
The pope explained:
“If only we could all cry like Emanuele when we have an ache in our hearts like he has. He was crying for his father and had the courage to do it in front of us because in his heart there is love for his father.”
The little boy explained that his father was an atheist but had always been a good person.
He had worked hard for his family, and the boy felt that he deserved to go to heaven but was worried that his atheism would prevent that from happening. 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 baptized. He had a good heart.”
“God is the one who says who goes to heaven.”
The pope decided to help the children understand God’s love a little better.
He asked them:
“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 baptized his children and gave them that bravura, do you think God would be able to leave him far from himself? Does God abandon his children? Does God abandon his children when they are good?”
The children shouted:
The pope said:
“There, Emanuele, that is the answer. God surely was proud of your father, because it is easier as a believer to baptize your children than to baptize them when you are not a believer. Surely this pleased God very much.”
Another little girl asked if it is possible for people who aren’t baptized to go to heaven, too.
The pope explained:
“When we are baptized, we become children of God. People who aren’t baptized, are they not children of God? What does your heart tell you?”
The little girl answered that she thought they were children of God, too. The pope continued:
“Right, and I’ll explain. We are all children of God. Everyone. Everyone. The nonbaptized, members of other religions, those who worship idols, even the mafiosi, who terrorize the neighborhood around the parish, are children of God, though they prefer to behave like children of the devil.
“God created everyone, loves everyone, and put in everyone’s heart a conscience so they would recognize what is good and distinguish it from what is bad. When you were baptized, the Holy Spirit entered into that conscience and reinforced your belonging to God and, in that sense, you became more of a daughter of God because you’re a child of God like everyone, but with the strength of the Holy Spirit.”
The children seemed to hang on every word he said, and they believed that what he was telling them was absolutely true.
The pope spent a lot of time with the children, and he wanted to be sure to listen to their concerns and answer all of their questions thoroughly. His chat with them may have helped make their faith stronger and brought some comfort to their little grieving hearts.
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