2014-05-31 Vatican - Pope Francis on Saturday met with a group of Italian school children at risk of dropping out, part of a new initiative of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Under “The Digger’s Light” program, the children visited the the Catacombs of St. Januarius in Naples and of St. Priscilla in Rome. On Saturday, a special train brought the children to Rome, where they met with Pope Francis, and were able to visit the Vatican and the Colosseum.

“We decided, together with the Ministry of Education, on schools that are far from the centre, far from the places of culture and beauty,” said Patrizia Martinez, the head of the “Courtyard of the Children,” which spearheaded the event. “The children are prepared by the teachers for the visit to the catacombs, but they remain enchanted by all that is beautiful and luminous beneath the earth.”

During the meeting with the Pope in the Paul VI auditorium, several of the children presented Pope Francis with gifts from their excursion – earth and plants from the catacombs. Speaking familiarly with the children, the Holy Father spoke about the plant as a “plant of light to make a better world.” The earth, which came from the darkness of the catacombs, was given to the Pope “to make it become light.”

The Pope talked with the children about the importance of coming from the darkness into the light. “The light,” he said, “is always inside us. Because the light give us joy, gives us hope.” When people seek light, he continued, they can make the world a better place.

But, the Pope said, we can’t make the world better with hatred – only with love. “With love. With love. All together, like brothers, fighting alongside one another with love. And for that reason, I want to tell you one thing: When the Apostle John, who was such a good friend of Jesus, wanted to say who God is, do you know what he said? ‘God is love.’”

“God is love,” Pope Francis repeated, “And we go forward together toward the light to find the love of God. But is the love of God within us, even in moments of darkness? Is the love of God hidden there? Yes, always! The love of God never leaves us. It is always with us. Let us have faith in this love.”