Pope Takes Questions From Children

VATICAN CITY (VIS) - This afternoon 150,000 people, including 100,000 children from Italy and other parts of the world who took First Communion this year, crowded into St. Peter's Square for a meeting of prayer and catechesis with the Holy Father. The theme of the event was: "The bread of heaven."

The children, accompanied by relatives and catechists, filled St. Peter's Square and part of Via della Conciliazione. Prior to the arrival of the Pope, they were entertained by a musical show in which a number of the youngsters participated.

The culminating moment came with the Holy Father's off-the-cuff replies to questions on the Eucharist raised by some of the children sitting near him.

In responding to the first question, the Pope recalled the day of his own First Communion: "It was a Sunday in March 1936, 69 years ago," he said, "the sun was shining, the church was beautiful, and there was music playing. ... But my most precious memory is that of having understood that Jesus had entered my heart, He visited me, and with Jesus, God Himself was with me. This is a gift of love that is truly worth more than all the rest of life. ... That day I made the promise: 'Lord, I always want to be with You, but above all I want You to be with me."

A little girl asked the Pope why it is necessary to confess before receiving Communion, if our sins are always the same. Smiling at her question, Benedict XVI answered: "It is true that our sins are always the same. Yet do we not clean our house, our room, at least once a week, though the dirt is always the same? If we do not, we run the risk of the dirt accumulating, though we may not see it. The same is true of our souls. If we never confess, our souls are overlooked. I may be pleased with myself, yet I do not understand that I have to improve constantly in order to progress. Confession helps us to have a more open conscience and thus to mature in a spiritual and human way."

To another question concerning Jesus' invisible presence in the Eucharist, he replied: "We cannot see Him, yet there are many things we cannot see but that exist and are essential. For example, we cannot see our own reason and intelligence ... yet they exist for we can speak and think. We cannot see electricity, but we feel its effects, such as light. We cannot see the most profound things, but we can see and feel their effects."

Another little girl asked him what to do if her parents did not go to Sunday Mass. He suggested she speak with them "with great love and respect" saying, "dear mummy, dear daddy, did you know there is something very important for us all, for you too? Meeting Jesus."

The meeting ended with the adoration and solemn blessing of the Eucharist. The Holy Father explained to the children that to adore "is to recognize that Jesus is the Lord, the center of our lives. To pray is to say: Jesus, I am Yours, I never want to lose this friendship, this communion with You. ... The absence of God, is a harmful deficiency, He is the light and the guide of our lives, of which we have need."