Yesterday afternoon, in the Chapel of Casa Santa Marta, the Pope received in audience a group of twenty seriously ill children, accompanied by their parents, along with volunteers and leaders from the UNITALSI association, which organises pilgrimages to Lourdes and Loreto. The majority of the children were aged between seven and 14 years, although there were also some as young as two and three.
The Pope approached each child warmly. One child spoke to the Holy Father about their meeting two years ago, recalling all those who had been present and some who died, and assured him that they have all prayed a lot for the Pope, as he had asked them to.
The Holy Father went on to speak about the mystery of the suffering of children. “It is a question I often ask myself, and which many of you, many people, ask themselves: why do children suffer? And there are no explanations. … I simply look to God and ask, ‘But why?’. And looking at the Cross: ‘Why is Your Son there, why?’ It is the mystery of the Cross. … I also often think of the Virgin when as they brought her the lifeless body of her Son. … She did not understand either. She would have recalled what the Angel had told her: ‘He will be King, He will be great, He will be a prophet’. With that wounded body in her arms, that had suffered so greatly before death, she would surely have wanted to say to the Angel: ‘Liar! I have been deceived’. She had no answers either”.
“Do not be afraid of asking, indeed even challenging the Lord. ‘Why?'”, he exclaimed. “Perhaps no explanation will come, but the gaze of the Father will give you the strength to go on. … The only explanation He will be able to give you is: ‘My son suffered too’. This is the explanation. The most important is his gaze. This is your strength, the loving gaze of the Father”.
“In a world in which it is so normal to experience a throwaway culture – if we are not happy with something we discard it – you live this situation … with heroism. … You are the little heroes of life. I thank you for your example”, affirmed the Pope, visibly moved. “I pray for you, for these mixed feelings of joy and sadness. … The Lord knows how to comfort you in your suffering in a special way.”
Those present then prayed a Hail Mary and received the Pope’s blessing. He continued the meeting by talking with each child and their parents.