A little boy in mourning received some poignant words from Pope Francis following the recent death of his father. The boy had an important question for the pontiff: "Dad is in heaven?"
Francis and the boy, known as Emanuele, met during a pastoral visit. During a period of questions and answers, Emanuele tried to ask a question to the Pope in front of an audience. He went to the microphone, but froze before he could speak. He broke the heart of the crowd when he began to sob in his hands.
Francis asked the boy to come over and whisper the question in his ear. The two shared a hug and a private conversation. With the child's permission, Francis shared with the crowd what his question was. Emanuele wanted to know if his father had gone to heaven. He revealed that his father was not a believer, but he assured Francisco that he was a good man who baptized all his children.
In an English translation provided by Catholic News Service Pope Francis responded to Emanuele and the public with sincere words. "A boy who inherited his father's strength also had the courage to cry before all of us," the Pope said. "If this man was able to create children like that, it is true that he is a good man."
Francis added that God, who has the heart of a father, decides who goes to heaven. He then asked the congregation if they thought God would abandon a good man like Emanuele's father. All at the same time shouted: "No".
"Surely God was proud of your father, because it is easier for a believer to baptize your children than to baptize them when you are not a believer." Surely this pleased God very much, "said Francisco.
In the past, the Pope has recognized that atheists can work forever. He has declared that all humans are created by God and that doing good to others is what unites everyone, including atheists.
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