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Pope surprises students with unscripted Q+A session

Catholic World News - June 07, 2013

Pope Francis revealed that he never wanted to be the Pope, and that he has chosen not to live in the papal apartments for the sake of his mental health, in a candid exchange with students on June 7.

At a meeting with students from Jesuit-run schools in Italy and Albania, along with their teachers and relatives, the Pope decided to set aside a 5-page prepared address. “It’s a little boring,” he told the students. Instead he asked the students to pose questions. “That way we can talk,” he said.

Asked why he had decided to live in the Vatican guest house, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, rather than in the papal apartments, the Holy Father replied that “it’s a question of personality.” He explained that it was not because the papal apartments are luxurious, and not because he considers himself more virtuous than other pontiffs. “I can’t live alone; do you understand?” he said. “I need to live among people, and if I lived alone—perhaps rather isolated—it wouldn’t be good for me.”

When a young girl asked whether he wanted to be Pope, Francis quickly replied in the negative. “God does not bless a person who wants to be Pope,” he said. “I didn’t want to be Pope.”

In answer to a question about why be became a Jesuit, Pope Francis said that he had originally wanted to be a missionary, and had asked for an assignment to Japan, but was told that because of his health he was better suited for work in his native Argentina. Nevertheless he said that the missionary spirit is at the core of the Jesuit vocation: “going out to announce Jesus Christ and not becomgin too closed within our worlds.”

Another girls asked the Pope if he stayed in touch with his own boyhood friends. He said that he had enjoyed a few visits from old Argentine friends, and heard regularly from others. “I see them, I write to them,” he said. “You can’t live your life without friends.”

An elementary school girl asked if the Pope continued to see his friends from grade school. “But I've only been Pope for two and a half months,” he answered. But he understood her concern and continued “My friends are 14 hours away from here by plane, right? They're far from here, but I want to tell you something, three of them came to find me and greet me and I see them and they write to me and I love them very much. You can't live without friends, that's important.”

A boy asked about lapses of faith, and the Pope encouraged him with the reply: “Always remember this: you must not be afraid of failure or taking a tumble. The art of walking is not about not falling at all but learning to pick yourself up and carry on. If you fall down, get up quickly and go on walking.”

In responses to other students’ questions the Pope said that the persistence of poverty in today’s world is a scandal, and that Christians have a duty to become involved in political affairs. “Politics is dirty, but the reason it has become dirty is that Christians didn’t get deeply enough involved in the evangelical spirit,” he said. “Working for the common good is a Christian duty.”

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