To reach the young and faithful, Pope Francis is not afraid to try new things. To guide young Catholics through Lent, which started Wednesday (Feb. 10), the popular 266th pope is on messaging apps; late last year he dropped a rock album.
Now he’s going even younger: On March 1, Pope Francis will release a new book that contains handwritten letters and illustrations from children around the world, with his personal responses to their questions. Dear Pope Francis, published by Loyola Press, reveals the worries and queries of young Catholics, and offers a quiet profundity that even non-believers can get into.
Popes are prolific writers—Pope Francis’s predecessor wrote countless titles—but with this new volume, the leader of the Catholic church departs from the usual topics of charity, mercy, and responsibility, and answers questions that are both simpler and bigger: Why do people go hungry? What happens to angels? Why aren’t there miracles anymore?
See a selection of their questions below, with the pope’s answers, paraphrased.
Can non-Catholics go to heaven?
“Will my grandpa, a non-Catholic who is not a person willing to do something evil, go to heaven when he dies? In other words, if someone never makes any penances, how big a sin must he commit for him to go down to Hell?” — Ivan, 13, China
The pope’s answer: Jesus wants us all to go to heaven.
Why is the devil still around?
“If God loves us so much and didn’t want us to suffer, why didn’t he defeat the devil?” — Alejandra, 9, Peru
The pope’s answer: The devil is like a dragon that wags its tail after death.
Why did God create flawed humans?
“Why did God create us even though he knew that we would sin against him?” — Maximus, 10, Singapore
The pope’s answer: God gave us freedom, which means the freedom to choose sin.
What’s God’s real job?
“What did God do before the world was made?” — Ryan, 8, Canada
The pope’s answer: “He loved.”
Why the headgear?
“Why do you need that tall hat?” — Faith, 8, Singapore
The pope’s answer: It’s a symbol of being a bishop.
What about miracles?
“Why are there not as many miracles anymore?” — Joaquín, 9, Peru
The pope’s answer: “It’s not true!”
Can we go back to the way things used to be?
“Will the world be again as it was in the past?” — Mohammed, 10, Syria
The pope’s answer: No.