Pope Francis makes surprise visit to 200 children for catechism in Rome suburb

Pope Francis meets with a group of 200 children studying catechism and in a relaxed manner answered some of their questions on April 11, 2024, at St. John Mary Vianney Parish in Borghesiana, Italy. / Credit: Vatican Media

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 12, 2024 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis made a special “getaway” from the Vatican yesterday afternoon and met with a group of 200 children at a parish in metro Rome.

A brief statement released by the Holy See’s Press Office said that the Holy Father went to St. John Mary Vianney Parish in Borghesiana, east of the Italian capital.

There Pope Francis met with a group of 200 children studying catechism and in a relaxed manner answered some of their questions.

Pictures from the meeting posted on social media show the Holy Father happily greeting the children and even giving them playful “high fives.” 

According to the Dicastery for Evangelization, for approximately one hour, the “pope catechized with the children.”

Responding to their questions, he offered a brief catechesis on the topic of the prayer of thanksgiving, emphasizing that it is one of the most important in the Christian life.

“It’s important to give thanks for everything. For example, if you enter a person’s house and don’t say thank you, or don’t say hello, is that good? The first word is ‘thank you,’ so the second is ‘permission,’” he told the children at the parish in suburban Borghesiana, located in the eastern part of the diocese.

“The third word is ‘forgiveness,’” the pope continued. “Is a person who never asks for forgiveness good? It’s difficult to ask for forgiveness, sometimes shame and pride go with it. But it’s important when you say I’m sorry a lot. Three words: thank you, permission, sorry.”

Pope Francis meets with a group of 200 children studying catechism and in a relaxed manner answered some of their questions on April 11, 2024, at St. John Mary Vianney Parish in the Borghesiana area of Rome, Italy. Credit: Vatican Media

Next, Pope Francis asked the children: “But do you pray? How do you pray? What can you say to the Lord?” One of the children said that he and his family pray before eating.

“He said something important. But do you know that there are so many children who don’t have food? Do I thank the Lord for giving me food? Do I thank you for giving me a family?” he asked.

The last question touched on the topic of faith. “But are you Christians?” Pope Francis asked. “Do you have faith? Let’s say it together. Thank you, Lord, for giving me faith.”

During the exchange, one of the children’s most emotional questions was from a 10-year-old named Alice: “How can I thank the Lord in my illness?”

Pope Francis meets with a group of 200 children studying catechism on April 11, 2024, at St. John Mary Vianney Parish in the Borghesiana area of Rome, Italy. Credit: Vatican Media

“Even in dark moments, we have to thank the Lord, because he gives us the patience to tolerate difficulties. Let’s say it together: Thank you, Lord, for giving us the strength to tolerate pain,” the pontiff said. The children also asked him why there was death and loneliness.

“We must always thank him, at all times. I give you some advice,” Pope Francis said. “Before going to sleep, think: ‘What can I thank the Lord for today?’ Give thanks,” he encouraged the children.

At the end of the meeting, the children together with the Holy Father recited a “Prayer of Thanksgiving” composed for the occasion, which will serve as a reminder of an extraordinary moment in their lives.

Before leaving, Pope Francis, greeting and joking with them, gave each of the children a chocolate egg.

To the priests and the 20 catechists present he gave the first six volumes published in the series “Notes on Prayer.”

What is the School of Prayer?

This is the pontiff’s first meeting for the so-called “School of Prayer,” an initiative promoted by the Vatican as part of this Year of Prayer in preparation for the Jubilee Year 2025.

As part of the project, Pope Francis will hold different meetings “with some different categories of people to pray together, including some forms of prayer.”

As Archbishop Rino Fisichella, pro-prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization, explained to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, these prayer meetings “will depend on the commitments of Pope Francis and will possibly include people and families from the Diocese of Rome.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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