What Pope Francis learned from homeless girl: 'Cry with the suffering!'

Pope Francis hugs girl Philippines CNA Pope Francis hugs a former homeless girl Glyzelle Palomar at a youth rally in Manila Jan. 18

Pope Francis praised Filipino former homeless girl Glyzelle Palomar for asking why God allows children to suffer, saying her tearful question shows that Christians must "learn how to weep."

The 12-year-old Glyzelle burst into tears as she recounted her experience to the Pope on Sunday: "there are many children neglected by their own parents. There are also many who became victims and many terrible things happened to them like drugs or prostitution."

"Why is God allowing such things to happen, even if it is not the fault of the children? And why are there only very few people helping us?" she asked.

Her comments followed an affecting testimony from a former homeless boy, 14-year-old Jun Chura, during a youth meeting on the campus of Manila's Santo Tomas University Jan. 18.

After Jun's testimony and Glyzelle's tearful question, the two approached Pope Francis, who embraced them. The Holy Father then used the girl's tears as the springboard for an answer to her question.

"Glyzelle is the only one who has put a question to which there is no answer," Pope Francis said, "and she wasn't able to express it in words, only in tears."

"Why do children suffer so much?" he asked. "When the heart is able to ask itself and cry, then we can understand."

Pope Francis pointed to the way Jesus ministered to his people. He did not meet people's needs with a worldly compassion, only stopping for a few moments to hand out money or material things. Rather, the Pope said, Christ took the time to listen and to sympathize with his people.

"Jesus in the Gospel, he cried," Pope Francis said. "He cried for his dead friend, he cried in his heart for the family that had lost its child, he cried when he saw the poor widow burying her son, he was moved to tears, to compassion, when he saw the crowds without a shepherd."

It is only when we learn to cry with those who are suffering that we can begin to understand them and to love them, Pope Francis explained.

"If you don't learn how to cry, you can't be good Christians," he emphasized.

"Let us learn how to weep, as Glyzelle has shown us today. Let us not forget this lesson."

The 12-year-old's question followed a heartbreaking testimony from Jun Chura, a formerly homeless Filipino child. Jun was one of three young people to personally address the Holy Father at a meeting with Filipino youth on the sports field of the University of Santo Tomas on Jan. 18.

Not long ago, Jun left his family, as they could no longer send him to school, and took to the streets. 

"I was feeding myself with what (I) can find in the garbage," he said. "I did not know where to go and I was sleeping on the sidewalk…looking for a piece of carton to make a mat."

Besides having to fend for himself, Jun witnessed things on the street no child is prepared to see.

"…terrible things happened to my companions in the street: I saw that they were taught how to steal, to kill also, and they have no respect anymore for the adults," he said. "I saw also some children who were taught how to use drugs…"

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It was hard to know when to accept help from those who offered it, Jun said. Adults would often approach children in the street, purporting to offer food or shelter, but would the use the children for unpaid labor or sexual abuse.

That's why, when Jun was first approached by the Tulay ng Kabataan Foundation, he declined. He wasn't sure he could trust that the group was actually there to help him.

Jun now accepts help from the Tulay ng Kabataan Foundation. They are helping him continue his education, and one day he hopes to work with the Foundation to help his family and other street children like himself.

Glyzelle too has been helped by the foundation.

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