Pope Benedict XVI made papal broadcasting history on Good Friday of this year when he became the first pope to appear on a question and answer TV show. The pre-recorded program for “In His Image”, broadcast on the Italian RAI Uno station, showed the pope replying to seven questions submitted from around the world that included a young Japanese girl, a Muslim mother from the Ivory Coast and seven Christian students from Iraq.
In the year 2000, when I was in Rome I was invited to a meeting between the international Redemptoris Mater Rectors with the then Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Faith. The atmosphere was intimate. It was my first and only close encounter with this Pope. It was a mesmerizing experience! I have never seen such an intelligent and gentle man in my whole life.
I had the same feeling while I watched this unprecedented TV program. Perhaps the most moving was the first question, posed by a Japanese girl who has just lived the earthquake and resulting tsunami. She asked: “My name is Elena. I am Japanese and I am seven years old. I am very frightened because the house where I felt safe really shook a lot and many children my age have died. I cannot go to play at the park. I want to know: why do I have to be so afraid? Why do children have to be so sad? I’m asking the Pope, who speaks with God, to explain it to me”.
The Pope was very candid. I do not have the answers, he admitted! “Dear Elena, I send you my heartfelt greetings. I also have the same questions: why is it this way? Why do you have to suffer so much while others live in ease? And we do not have the answers but we know that Jesus suffered as you do, an innocent, and that the true God who is revealed in Jesus is by your side. This seems very important to me, even if we do not have answers, even if we are still sad; God is by your side and you can be certain that this will help you. One day we will even understand why it was so.
“At this moment it seems important to me that you know “God loves me” even if it seems like He doesn’t know me. No, He loves me, He is by my side, and you can be sure that in the world, in the universe, there are many who are with you, thinking of you, doing what they can for you, to help you. And be aware that, one day, I will understand that this suffering was not empty, it wasn’t in vain, but behind it was a good plan, a plan of love. It is not chance. Be assured, we are with you, with all the Japanese children who are suffering. We want to help you with our prayers, with our actions, and you can be sure that God will help you. In this sense we pray together so that light may come to you as soon as possible.”
“In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”
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