Executives from Chicago’s Loyola Press traveled to Rome last May with a proposal for Pope Francis: Would he consider writing a children’s book?
More precisely, they hoped to gather letters to the pontiff from children around the world, and publish them along with his responses.
The pope agreed, and two months later the independent Jesuit press had gathered 259 letters from 26 countries on six continents. On March 1, Loyola Press, along with Jesuit publishing houses in 11 other countries, will release the resulting book: “Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World.”
The collection includes letters and drawings from 30 children, ages 6 to 13, posing some serious head-scratchers.
In an off-the-cuff speech in Philadelphia last September, Pope Francis mentioned one of the letters.
“A child asked me – you know that kids ask difficult questions – he asked me ‘Father, what did God do before creating the world?’” the pope said. “I assure you, I found real difficulty in answering the question. So I said what I’m now going to say to you: Before creating the world, God loved. Because God is love.”
Loyola Press used its Jesuit contacts around the world to deliver supplies (drawing paper, markers, crayons) and gather letters from children from countries including Albania, China, Nigeria, the Philippines and a temporary school for displaced children in Syria.
It took nearly a month for supplies to reach Kenya and the publisher could not arrange prepaid return shipping. So the Americans mailed $100 in cash for return postage to their contact there, a nun working with the Jesuits.
“It was an act of faith,” said Tom McGrath, director of trade publications for Loyola Press. The cash, and the letters, arrived safely.
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