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My esteem for Pope Francis will come as no surprise to those who read this blog regularly. I believe he is theman for our time, not just for Catholics, but for all humans who want to become more human.

I was reminded of this story about the pope by the homilist at an online Mass I recently attended and believe it deserves treatment in this blog, which is principally for people who have given up on God and/or religion. Here’s the story, according to a 2018 online post by Huffpost.

“A tearful little boy grappling with big existential questions after the death of his father received some touching words of consolation from Pope Francis. The poignant moment between the pontiff and the child on Sunday highlighted Francis’ enduring emphasis on prioritizing mercy.

Emanuele

“The child, whom Francis referred to as Emanuele, met the pope during a papal visit to the St. Paul of the Cross parish on the outskirts of Rome. During a question-and-answer session with children of the parish, Emanuele approached the microphone to ask Francis a question.

“But the child froze before he could get his words out. He can be seen sobbing into his hands in a video recording. Francis encouraged the boy to come forward and whisper the question into his ear. The pope gave the boy a hug and the pair had a quiet chat before Emanuele returned to his seat.

“Francis then addressed the crowd, saying that Emanuele had granted permission to share the conversation. He revealed that Emanuele was crying for his father, who had recently died. The boy told the pontiff that his dad was an atheist, but a good man who had all four of his children baptized.

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“’Is Dad in heaven?’ the boy asked the pope.

“A boy that inherited the strength of his father also had the courage to cry in front of all of us,” the pope said. “If this man was able to create children like this, it’s true that he is a good man.

 

“That man did not have the [gift] of faith, wasn’t a believer. But he had his children baptized. He had a good heart,” Francis added. The pope said that God decides who goes to heaven, and that God has “the heart of a father.” He asked the young girls and boys in the audience if they thought God would abandon a father like Emanuele’s, who was a good man.


“No,” the children shouted back.

Proud of Father

“There, Emanuele, that is the answer,” the pope said, according to a translation provided by the Catholic News Service. “God surely was proud of your father, because it is easier as a believer to baptize your children than to baptize them when you are not a believer. Surely this pleased God very much.”

Is the Pope promoting atheism? Hardly. He is only acknowledging that despite being the head of a major worldwide religion, he can’t make decisions that are only God’s to make. And as he has asserted many times, all human beings are children of God.

So people who are struggling to believe should take heart. God is not only the Father of believers, but of all of us. I believe, however, that God wants a relationship with all his/her children, which makes the struggle worth it.