On Saturday, Pope Francis met with 400 children from towns hit by earthquakes in central Italy, telling them that during times of tragedy and natural disasters, we must deepen our trust in the Lord, who helps us.
“What you have experienced is a bad thing because it is a calamity,” Pope Francis told the children June 3.
“Is it true or not? It’s a calamity. And calamities wound the soul. But the Lord helps us to recover.”
The Pope met with the school-age children at the Vatican as part of the fifth edition of the “Children’s Train” initiative, promoted by the Pontifical Council for Culture’s “Court of Gentiles” and Trenitalia, the Italian train company which sponsored the children’s train ride from Rome’s main station, Termini, to a station inside the Vatican.
Sitting in the atrium outside the Pope Paul VI hall, Francis led the children in an informal exchange which included random comments from one child about visiting the beach later with her mother, sister and cousin and another about being hungry for lunch.
“Do you trust in the Lord, or not?” the Pope asked them, as they sat on the floor, holding balloons they received on the train.
“Yes!” the children responded, Pope Francis asking again, “Are you sure?” to which they enthusiastically responded: “Yes!”
“And also in Our Lady?” the Pope continued, saying “and now, if we trust, we thank Our Lady for the good things that she has given us in this calamity.” The Pope then led them in praying the Hail Mary.
At the beginning of the meeting, Francis had said: “Boys and girls, they tell me I have to talk. But I like to listen! You, do you want to talk?”
He listened carefully while a few children offered some brief testimony about their experiences during the earthquake, which hit parts of central Italy on August 24, 2016 and resulted in nearly 300 deaths.
One boy from the town of Norcia, one of the most severely-hit, shared how after the earthquakes, they couldn’t return to their school building, but had to hold school in tents for a period of time. Only after March of this year being able to return to a normal schedule and building.
The Pope told each child “good job,” after hearing their testimony.
“One of the things that Jesus likes most, one of the words that most pleases the Lord,” the Pope told the young boys and girls, “are the words ‘Thank you very much.’”
He thanked them all for their visit and for remembering the “bad time” with him.
“Was the train nice?” he asked. “Yup!” the children responded in a group.
“Are you hungry?” he continued. The answer was again: “Yes!”
“Have you heard? They are hungry,” the Pope concluded to the parents and chaperones. “Goodbye, thank you!” he said smiling.