By Philippa Hitchen
Why is my life so hard? Why did my mother abandon me? Why do people judge me? These were some of the questions that a group of young Romanians asked Pope Francis during a recent private meeting in the Vatican.
The Vatican press office on Tuesday released the text of the encounter that was organised on January 4th by the charity ‘Foundation for People’s Development (FDP).
Pope Francis told the young men and women that he cried as he read one of the questions about a boy who was abandoned as a baby and then rejected again by his mother, whom he went to find as a young man. “Why doesn’t she accept me?”, the man asked the Pope. “Why am I to blame?”
Poverty and injustice to blame
Another participant asked why some parents love their children and others reject those who are sick or in difficulty. To both questions, Pope Francis replied that some parents are more fragile than others and less able to cope with challenging situations. They are like cardboard boxes, he said, that can be completely crushed by the weight of a stone.
Poverty and injustice are often to blame, he said, as they harden parents’ hearts and can lead a mother to abandon her child. Though she may love her baby, he said, her life is so hard that she doesn’t know how to express that love. Sometimes, he added, children themselves can help their parents to overcome their fears and fragilities.
No answers to children's suffering
Responding to a question about why life is so unfair and another about a child who died in an orphanage, the Pope said that sometimes there are no answers to questions about why children suffer. The only answers come from God, he continued, who wants to heal our pain. Just as Jesus told his disciples that neither the blind man, nor his parents, were responsible for his affliction, so God answers by meeting us in our sickness and suffering, embracing us and healing our pain.
Asked what was the point of going to church when we continue to argue and behave badly, the Pope said we can learn to stand before God and confess our sins, asking him to transform our lives.
Find support in Christian community
Finally, Pope Francis responded to a young woman who had put her baby into foster care, yet found herself judged for being a bad mother. He told her that sometimes fostering can be the best solution and he assured her that he understood her feelings of loneliness and confusion. Seek out the company of other Christians, he suggested, as we can all find support and healing by learning to trust and share our problems with others.