.- A new children's book has been published under Pope Benedict XVI's name. It presents a collection of the Holy Father's descriptions of Jesus' relationship with his "first companions," taken from his catecheses at general audiences over the past five years.
The illustrated book titled "Gli Amici di Gesu" (The Friends of Jesus) was released in spring of 2010 by the Milanese publishing house Piccola Casa Editrice in Italian. Painted depictions from the hand of Franco Vignazia accompany the stories of Jesus and 14 of his "friends."
The characters in the book include each of the original 12 apostles, including Judas Iscariot; Matthias, who replaced Judas after the betrayal, and St. Paul.
The 48-page volume produced for the youngest of readers is a "route that takes the reader to the origins of the Church, through the events of the first people who found Jesus and became his friends," according to the publishing house.
Fr. Julian Carron, president of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, says in the preface of book that, through the stories, "The Pope takes us by the hand and accompanies us to discover who were the first companions of Christ, how they found him and how they were conquered by him until they decided that they would never abandon him again."
Lorenzo Murnigotti, editorial coordinator of the Piccola Casa Editrice publishing house, told CNA that it reproduces Pope Benedict's perspective of the most significant moments between them and the Teacher, dedicating each of them three to four pages.
The publisher, he explained, came up with the idea to compile the Pope's descriptions for a young audience after they noticed that references to the apostles during his traditional Wednesday catecheses were also directed to children.
Through an agreement with the Vatican's publishing house, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, they were able to produce the book with the name of the author, "Benedetto XVI," on the cover.
Mr. Murnigotti hoped that English and Spanish versions would be published within the next year and added that, if given the opportunity, they will continue to print works by the Pope "very willingly."