TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER: Love, joy shines from pontiff’s answers to children’s questions in ‘Dear Pope Francis’

“Dear Pope Francis”

Getting something in the mail is a lot of fun, isn’t it?

What was the last thing you got from the mailman? Maybe a birthday card with money. Maybe you got a postcard from Grandma or a package from your Auntie. Getting mail is a nice surprise, even for Pope Francis. He receives letters from all over the world, as you’ll see in “Dear Pope Francis.”

Imagine being the guy who brings mail to Pope Francis. That’s what Antonio Spadaro did one day: on a “hot August afternoon,” he took 30 letters written by children from all over the world, and gave them to the Pope. Then Spadaro waited for answers, which he knew the Pope was eager to give.

“…these are tough questions!” the Pope said. Even so, he knew just what to say.

Pope Francis loves children, and he likes to talk with them and see their drawings. He remembers how it was when he was young: he liked to dance the tango, he liked soccer, and he recalls what it’s like when people you love argue.

Don’t argue, he says. “That will be good for everyone.”

In his answers to the letters, the Pope explains a few mysteries: a Canadian boy wanted to know what God did before the world was created. A boy from Argentina wanted to know how Jesus decided on 12 men as Apostles, instead of more. A Nicaraguan girl wanted to know if bad people have guardian angels. A boy from Syria asked the Pope if the world might be “as it was in the past…”

Lots of kids asked personal questions of the Pope: What makes him happy? Does the Holy Father feel like a father? What was the hardest thing he ever had to do? If he could perform miracles, what would he change?

And then there are the really tough things: a Chinese boy asked if his grandpa will go to heaven. One child wanted to know if God can feed poor people. A Peruvian boy wanted to know where the miracles are. And an Australian boy asked if his mum in heaven has grown angel wings…

Out of the mouths of babes? I think so; the questions inside “Dear Pope Francis” are sweet and innocent, but heavy in nature and they may be issues that you wrestle with, too. That means you’ll likely enjoy what you read, just as much as your child will.

The Pope you see from video and visits is inside this book: there’s love and joy here, as well as gentle humor and a delightful amount of insight on his life and personal thoughts.

Fr. Spadaro, in his afterword, tells what it was like to spend an afternoon with the Pope, where the letters came from, and how this book came to be.

For 6-to-13-year-olds, that makes the Pope more accessible. For adults, there’s a lot of comfort and wisdom in this book. For both of you together, “Dear Pope Francis” will get your stamp of approval.

“Dear Pope Francis,” by Pope Francis, in conversation with Antonio Spadaro, Tom McGrath, project managing editor, copyright 2016 by Loyola Press is 72 pages and sells for $18.95.

Contact book reviewer Terri Schlichenmeyer at www.bookwormsez.com or at bookwormsez@gmail.com.

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