Pope Francis surprises high school students before Christmas break

Pope Francis visits Pilo Albertelli high school in Rome Dec 20 2019 Credit Vatican Media Pope Francis visits Pilo Albertelli High School in Rome Dec. 20, 2019. | Vatican Media.

Pope Francis Friday made a surprise visit to a high school in Rome, where he spoke to about 800 students and answered questions about war, peace, and the coexistence of different cultures and religions.

The Pilo Albertelli State High School is close to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. The pope arrived there by car in the morning Dec. 20.

According to Matteo Bruni, Holy See press office director, students performed a song for Francis and the dean of the school gave an address.

Pope Francis rang the school bell and wished everyone a Merry Christmas.

He also answered several questions from students, Bruni said, including one about different cultures and religions living together. The pope answered the question by speaking about immigration, also in his own country of Argentina, and about the "need to live together."

"In addressing non-believers, he emphasized the value of witness to awaken curiosity about the Gospel and faith," Bruni said

Pope Francis reminded the students about the importance of leisure and dreams, which bring "oxygen to the soul." He also addressed the problem of loneliness, which can lead to melancholy, and spoke about the difficult road of gratuitous love which is made possible through patience and "small sacrifices."

He also spoke about the important relationship between a teacher and a student.

One student asked him about the seeming contradiction in using war to bring about peace and security. The pope spoke about the difficult situations in some countries and referenced a video message on the theme of peace he recorded earlier the same day with the secretary general of the United Nations.

At the start of the visit, Francis greeted faculty and staff with the director of L'Osservatore Romano, Andrea Monda, who was formerly a religion teacher at the high school.

As religion teacher, in 2018 Monda led a group of 15 students in writing the meditations for the pope's Way of the Cross at the Colosseum on Good Friday March 30, 2018.

Pope Francis also greeted these students during his meeting.

Monda told CNA in 2018 that he sees the pope's choice to entrust young people with the Via Crucis reflections as being in line with the greater focus of his pontificate, "trying to give a voice to those who have no voice."

In Monda's view, young people are also often at the peripheries. But Pope Francis says not to speak only about youth or to youth, but to "let the youth talk and then listen to them."

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