Today the Holy Father encouraged schoolchildren in the U.K. to aim high and "not to be content with second-best." Seeking holiness and "true happiness" in their lives, he said, will lead them to sainthood.
An estimated 4,000 children were in attendance from all over Great Britain for the event, which was held on the sports field at St. Mary's University College campus in London. The encounter was broadcast to all the Catholic schools in Scotland, England and Wales.
Observing that it is rare that a Pope, or anyone at all, has the opportunity to speak to all of the Catholic schoolchildren in the U.K. at the same time, he said he had something he wanted to tell them.
"I hope," he said, "that among those of you istening to me today there are some of the future saints of the 21st century. What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy."
"He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine and he wants the very best for you. And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness."
He told the children to think about what kind of people they would like to be, and in doing so, he asked them "not to be content with second best ... not to pursue one limited goal and ignore all the others."
One of "the great tragedies" in the world, he said, is that people never find happiness. It is not to be found in money or fame, but the "key to true happiness," said the Pope, "is to be found in God.
"God wants your friendship. And once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change. As you come to know him better, you find you want to reflect something of his infinite goodness in your own life. You are attracted to the practice of virtue."
And, in doing so, they will begin to avoid selfishness and greed, to feel greater compassion and to act with charity, empathy, kindness and generosity, he told them, and they will be "well on their way to becoming saints."
Urging them to maintain sight of the "bigger picture" in their studies, he turned to educational institutions. "A good school provides a rounded education for the whole person," he said. "And a good Catholic school, over and above this, should help all its students to become saints."