VATICAN CITY — If you sent Pope Francis a card or letter for his birthday, Christmas, and/or the new year, he says, “Thank you!”
Even though he likes to call or write back directly to the people who contact him, he knows he can’t do so for everyone.
So this Sunday he gave a general shout-out and heartfelt thanks to all his well-wishers, saying he received “many messages” over the holidays from all over the world.
“I would love to, but unfortunately it’s impossible to reply to everybody! Therefore, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the children for their beautiful drawings. No kidding, they’re really beautiful! Kids make beautiful drawings. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!
First of all, I thank the children. And I thank young people, the elderly, families, parishes, religious women, Catholic associations and movements and different groups that wanted to show their affection and closeness. I ask everyone to keep praying for me; I need it, and to pray for this service to the church.”
— Pope Francis’ Angleus address Jan. 5
Pope Benedict also thanked those who took part in a recent initiative that gathered hundreds of greetings and personal reflections, and presented him with a special box of pencils (his preferred writing instrument) to encourage him to keep writing.
The “Pencils for Benedict XVI” campaign gathered 479 messages from people worldwide. People were asked to highlight what the pope-emeritus means to them and how he has influenced their lives.
The reflections were compiled and published in a hardcover book that was then delivered to the retired pope along with the pencils.
The collection and gifts were organized by UK Web developer Sonia Swabey and her team at their website and forum www.georgganswein.com — a site named in recognition of the retired pope’s personal secretary and prefect of the papal household, Archbishop Georg Ganswein.
Sonia sent me an update saying Pope Benedict replied with a letter asking her to tell people how happy he was with the collected messages.
Here is an excerpt from the retired pope’s letter:
“Time after time it is a great experience of real catholicity to, through these texts, meet people who have been touched by my Petrine ministry and feel strengthened on their way. It is really moving for me how with this the living worldwide church stands concretely before me and speaks to me. By this I may see and feel how faith transcends all boundaries of geography, culture, language and profession and this brings about communion.
… Let them all know how thankful I am for their good words and how in this way a spiritual communion is built up, which carries us all towards the Lord.”
— Retired Pope Benedict to Sonia Swabey