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Monday, June 1, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 30 MAY 2009 (VIS) - In the Paul VI Hall at midday today Benedict XVI met with more than 7,000 children of the Pontifical Work of Missionary Childhood. In the course of the meeting he replied to questions put to him by three of the infants.

A young girl asked the Holy Father if he felt that different cultures could live together without arguing in the name of Jesus.

The Pope replied by recalling how when he was a child his family had moved to another village where he attended primary school. That village had four hundred inhabitants including rich farmers, members of the middle class and people with limited resources. Hence, he said, his school "reflected highly varied social situations. Yet there was communion among us. ... We collaborated together well and, I must say, naturally we sometimes argued. But afterwards we made up and forgot what had happened. I think this is important. Sometimes in human life it seems inevitable that we should argue but what remains important is the art of reconciliation, of forgiveness, of starting afresh and not letting bitterness remain in our hearts".

He went on: "Together we also leant to know the Bible, from the creation to Jesus' sacrifice upon the cross, and then the beginnings of the Church. Together we learnt the catechism, together we learnt to pray, together we prepared for first confession and First Communion: that was a splendid day. We understood that Jesus Himself comes to us, that He is not a distant God. He enters into my own life, into my own heart". The Pope also recalled how First Communion, "a tangible encounter with Jesus Who comes to me, Who comes to all of us, ... contributed to forming our community".

"We discovered the ability to live together and be friends", the Holy Father continued his reminiscences, "and although since 1937 ... I have not been back to that village, we still remained friends. Thus we learnt to accept one another and to shoulder one another's burdens. ... Despite our weakness we must accept each another and, with Jesus Christ, with the Church, together we discover the road to peace and learn to live well".

Benedict XVI was then asked whether he ever thought he would become Pope.

"Truth to tell", he replied, "I never imagined I would have become Pope because, as I said, I was a rather ingenuous boy in a small village far from large centres of population. ... Of course we knew, venerated and loved the Pope - Pope Pius XI - but for us he seemed to stand at an unattainable height, almost another world; a father to us but nonetheless far above us. And I have to say that even now I find it difficult to understand how the Lord could have thought of me, elevated me to this ministry. But I accept it from His hands, even though it is surprising and I feel it far beyond my powers. Yet, the Lord helps me".

"How can we help you to announce the Gospel?" was the third question put to the Holy Father.

He replied by telling the members of the Pontifical Work of Missionary Childhood that they already form "part of a great family that carries the Gospel into the world", and he reminded them of their programme of "listening, praying, knowing, sharing and showing solidarity".

"Praying is very important", the Pope explained, "because it makes the power of God present. ... To listen is truly to learn what Jesus says, to know Sacred Scripture, the Bible. In the story of Jesus, we learn to know the face of God. ... To share is to want things not only for ourselves, but for everyone, sharing them with others ... in our own little world which is part of the great world. And thus we together become a family where one has respect for the other, and accepts others in their difference".

"All this", Pope Benedict concluded, "simply means living in this great family that is the Church, in this great missionary family. Living the essentials - such as sharing, knowing Jesus, prayer, listening to one another and solidarity - is part of missionary work, because it helps to ensure the Gospel becomes a reality in our world".

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