Local Catholic publisher releases book of letters to pope from children

By Michelle Martin
Sunday, March 20, 2016

Who better to answer a child’s questions than a grandparent?

That’s what it was like when Pope Francis answered questions from 30 children in “Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World” (Loyola Press, $18.95), according to Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, who shared the children’s letters with the pope and transcribed his answers.

Spadaro, editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, a Jesuit journal that publishes articles on philosophy, theology, literary criticism and political theory, spent three afternoons interviewing Pope Francis in 2013. This experience was different, Spadaro said.

When Pope Francis answered the children’s questions, “From time to time, he looked off into space and answered a child he tried to imagine,” Spadaro said. “In his face, I saw care, I saw fondness. He said, ‘I would like to have these children in front of me.’”

That wish was fulfilled in February, when 12 of the children whose letters were published visited the Vatican and spent some time with pope. The children brought Pope Francis gifts from their home countries and each received a doll made to look like Jesus.

When Pope Francis entered the room, the children ran to him and embraced him. Then they sat on the floor around him and talked.

“The pope gave them more than one hour,” Spadaro said. “The pope usually spends 20 minutes with heads of state.”

He might have found the conversation of children more interesting.

“One Italian boy asked him, ‘Do you love Jesus?’” Spadaro said “I never thought to ask that to the pope. The pope answered slowly. He said, ‘I don’t know. What I do know is he really loves me.’ Many of the people — the adults who were there listening —started to cry. They realized he was really honest. He meant that the love Jesus gives to us is so much more than the love we give to him.”

The questions included in the book are similarly profound, Spadaro said.

“The children usually go straight to the core of questions. They are devoted to Pope Francis and very interested in him, and there were questions about his life before he became pope.

They also put forth very serious religious questions, wrapped up in sin and suffering and even the afterlife.

“I was struck by the question asked by a little boy named William from Chicago. He asked if Pope Francis could do one miracle, what would it be? After a moment, he said, ‘I would heal children. I would heal every child.’”

William Morkin, now 8, is a secondgrader at St. Francis Xavier School in La- Grange. In a telephone interview, he said he came up with that question because he had once asked his parents what superpowers they would want to have.

“They told me Jesus had superpowers, but it was called miracles,” William said. “So I wanted to know what kind of miracles he would do.”

William, the youngest of five children in his family, was asked to write a letter by a family friend who works at Loyola Press, according to his father, Mike Morkin.

William brought a Chicago Fire soccer ball when he met the pope, because he and Pope Francis both enjoy the game. They have something else in common, too, he said.

“He said he’d heal all the children,” William said. “If I could do a miracle, that’s what I would do, too.” Spadaro said he was also struck by a letter from Luca, from Australia.

“He said, ‘My mom is in heaven. Will she grow angel wings?’” Spadaro said. “Pope Francis answered, ‘Your mom is in heaven, beautiful, splendid, radiant, full of life, smiling at you.’ It’s a beautiful, long answer.”

While the book is made up of questions from children and is being marketed as a children’s book, adults also can learn from it, Spadaro said.

“The children’s questions are unfiltered. They are sharp, clear. There are no frills,” he said. “I recognize many questions I put to my mother when I was a child. When Pope Francis speaks to adults, children don’t listen. When Pope Francis speaks to children, adults listen.”

At parish presentations, Spadaro has surprised to see people buying eight or 10 copies of the book. “They were buying it for everyone in their families.”

The book is good for families, he said, because reading it is like reading letters between children and their grandfather.

“Children don’t have barriers and walls,” Spadaro said. “They are able to understand immediately if someone is able to connect with them. The children find in him kind of a grandfather. He is able to speak with them in very simple words, very deep, but simple.”

To order the book “Dear Pope Francis,” visit


  • pope francis
  • children
  • loyola press

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