.- Hundreds of kids felt the personal "warmth" of the Pope as they met with him in a private audience on Thursday evening. According to the children's school principal, they received his message to them about learning to read so they can better know God and the world.
The Holy Father hosted nearly 400 children from a local Catholic school at the Apostolic Villa of Castel Gandolfo on Thursday evening. The kindergarten and primary school students of the local Paul VI Pontifical School, run by the Maestre Pie sisters of the Philippines, were accompanied by their parents, grandparents, friends, brothers and sisters as they met with the Holy Father in the villa courtyard.
In his message to them, the Holy Father told the children of the importance of studying and learning to read so they can know the thought of others throughout time. One can learn about the "spiritual continents of the world," communicate with others and, he said, turn to the Bible "to read what God says to us."
He emphasized the importance of going to school "to learn all of the things necessary for life and learning also to know God, to know Jesus and thus to know how to live well."
Sister Anna, the principal of the Paul VI Pontifical School told CNA that the kids were "happy" with the encounter and had "received the Pope's message." She said that they arrived prepared to listen to his words and to put them into practice.
Pope Benedict XVI, she said, was visibly "so serene and so happy" also to meet with them, responding with gratitude to the songs that were sung for him and the gifts he received.
Among their gifts to the Holy Father was a picture made by the children themselves in which "the magic of life" was depicted through in which they incorporated their handprints into the design of the world brightened by a rainbow.
Sr. Anna said that in the encounter also the little ones felt the "warmth, this humanity, this affection" of the Pope towards children.