by Katie Daniels
“Dear Pope Francis,” seven-year-old William begins, “If you could do one miracle, what would it be?” William’s letter, along with letters and artwork from 29 other children, will be published in a new book, Dear Pope Francis. Set for release on March 1 from Loyola Press in Chicago, the book took shape under the guidance of Rev. Antonio Spadero, S.J., the director of La Civilta Cattolica.
Spadero, along with co-editor Tom McGrath of Loyola Press, worked with the pope to complete the project. After receiving Francis’ approval, Spadero reached out to priests and lay people around the world to get children’s letters to the publisher. The editors received over 250 letters in 14 different languages from 26 different countries. Francis chose the final 30 letters for the book and responded to each one.
“He loved the project right from the beginning,” McGrath said. “He has this great affection for children, who have a great affection for him. He was surprised at the depth of the questions” and also complimented the children’s artwork.
Spadero transcribed Francis’ answers in a 90-minute session last August in Rome, translating the pope’s mix of Italian and Spanish. “These are the pope’s exact words,” said McGrath. “At one point he mentioned, ‘These are tough.’ He realized that he owed the kids a deeper answer than right off the top of his head.”
Loyola will publish the book in English and Spanish and plans to bring 10 of the children who wrote letters in the book to Rome to meet the pope, who is eager to meet them. “He was quick to say he would like to make that happen,” said McGrath.
And the Pope’s answer to William’s letter? “Dear William,” the pope said. “I would heal children. I’ve never been able to understand why children suffer. It’s a mystery to me. I don’t have an explanation.”