Yesterday Pope Francis met the children of San Giovanni Maria Vianney for the first catechesis of the "School of prayer"

12 April 2024


Yesterday afternoon Pope Francis met around 200 children from the parish of San Giovanni Maria Vianney, on the outskirts of Rome, for the first session of the "School of Prayer" which the Holy Father set up for the Year of Prayer. The meeting took place following the same model as the "Fridays of Mercy", which saw Pope Francis turning up to meet certain categories of people without advance warning. The children, who are part of the catechism groups preparing for their First Holy Communion, joyfully welcomed the Pope, when he arrived unexpectedly in the parish. Their reaction was one of amazement when, along with the usual catechists they were expecting for the weekly catechism class, they saw Pope Francis come into the parish hall.

The Pope acted as a catechist with the children for about an hour. Answering their questions, he gave a brief talk on the theme of the prayer of thanksgiving. He underlined the point that this is one of the most important prayers of the Christian life. “It's important to say thank you for everything. For example, if you walk into a person's house and you don't say ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ or ‘hello’, is that cool? So … the first word is 'thank you',  the second is ‘please’’”, he said to the children of the parish in the Borghesiana district of Rome, in the eastern part of the Diocese. “The third word is ‘sorry’, added the Holy Father. “Is a person who never says sorry good? It's difficult to say sorry, I know, sometimes it comes with shame and pride. But it's important when someone slips up to say sorry. Three words: thank you, please, sorry."

Then the Pope asked the children: “Do you pray? How do you pray? What can we say to the Lord?” One of the children recalled that his family prays before eating.

The Pope responded: “He said something important. But do you know that there are many children who don't have anything to eat? Do I thank the Lord who gives me food? Do I thank him for giving me a family?".

The last question touched on the theme of faith. “Are you Christians?” asked Pope Francis. “Do you have faith? Let's say it together. Thank you Lord for giving me faith."

In the dialogue which followed, one of the most touching questions from the children came from a little girl called Alice, aged 10. “How can I thank the Lord in times of illness?”. The Pope replied: “Even in dark moments, we must thank the Lord, because He gives us the patience to tolerate difficulties. Let's say together: thank you Lord for giving us the strength to tolerate pain…"

Other children asked why there was death and loneliness in the world. Sofia, who is due to receive her First Communion in a few days, said she was very shaken by news of wars, and she asked the Pope how to say "thank you" even in a tragic moment like this.

“We must always thank Him, at every moment. Let me give you some advice,” said the Pope in conclusion. “Before going to sleep at night always think: what can I thank the Lord for today? Give thanks."

At the end of the meeting the children, together with the Holy Father, recited a "Prayer of thanksgiving" composed for the occasion, which will serve as a special memory of an extraordinary moment in their lives.

Before leaving, Pope Francis, greeting and joking with the children, gave each of the catechism class a chocolate egg. He gave the priests and approximately 20 catechists the first six published volumes of the "Notes on Prayer" series, aids designed by the first section of the Dicastery for Evangelization to support the pastoral life of communities rediscovering the centrality of prayer in preparation for the Jubilee 2025.