1,000 questions: The Poor Uncover a Side to the Pope yet Unseen

José Maria C.S. André

“What would you change in the world if you could only change one thing?”

“What are your faults?”

“With whom do you go to confession?”

For the first time in papal history, a pope answers the simplest, yet in many ways the most profound questions, asked by underprivileged people from all over the world.

Pope Francis’ engaging answers to over 1,000 queries – collected by NGOs working for the upliftment of the poor worldwide – havebeen encapsulated in the book Des pauvres au Pape, du Pape au monde (From the poor to the pope, from the Pope to the world). Brought out by Éditions du Seuil and launched on April 1st, all rights to Des pauvres au Pape, du Pape au monde have been donated to the various associations involved in collecting the questions.

L’association Lazare (Lazarus Association), which was instrumental in driving this initiative, is a non-profit that works to organize joint accommodations between young working people and homeless individuals. These questions gathered by partner associations were personally handed to Pope Francis by the Lazarus Association.

The questions ranged from ones that tried to understand the Pope from a merely human perspective, asking him about his favourite book, sport, prayer and saint, whether he still drives and how he prays to his Guardian Angel; to more introspective questions, such as, “What would you change in the world if you could only change one thing?”, “How important is Our Lady in your life?” and “What do you think about at the end of the day?”.

Pope Francis reveals that the qualities he admires the most in people are simplicity and transparency, saying, “Simplicity attracts me. It does me good to see simple and transparent people.” He was forthright in his approach to times of uncertainty, disclosing that he tries to fight the temptation to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. He says, “Because sometimes I get anxious and want to get rid of the problem as soon as possible. And when I do that, it goes wrong. So I try to stop and give it time, consider things, consult some people, pray.”

The Pope speaks about a scene where he saw women lined up outside a prison, waiting to meet their children or husbands. He was tremendously moved by what he saw. “They went through the shame of standing there at the door and everyone knowing they were the mother or the wife of an inmate. But it didn’t matter to them. Loyalty. It touched me inside and helped me so much… So much!” says Pope Francis. He also expresses his deep empathy and sharing of the suffering of orphans who do not know the authentic love of a mother, declaring, “It hurts me when I see these children or young people (…) who don’t have a mother. They have a mother, but not the dear mamma. I suffer a lot for these orphans. I could say the same for those who have no father, but I speak of the mother, because it seems to me that the mother has a greater symbolic weight.”

The topic of the Russia-Ukraine war is one of great importance and adequately addressed in answering one of the questions. Pope Francis, while admonishing the international community for not doing enough to prevent the slaughter of innocent Ukranians and bewailing the horror of war, nevertheless is appreciative of those countries that have stepped up to the job of helping in any way possible. He says, “Ukraine’s neighbours, especially Poland, have been extraordinarily generous in welcoming the refugees. The European Union did something, like connecting the Ukrainian power grid to that of Western Europe, so that Ukrainians still have power despite of so much destruction. Some US companies offered internet connections from a satellite network, so the Ukrainians can communicate. From all sides, there is a feeling of solidarity with these heroes fighting for freedom.”

Des pauvres au Pape, du Pape au monde, a rare and unusual book,has all this and more to uncover about the Pope, giving its readers a deeper insight into the man, his life, and choices, through questions raised by those most beloved by Christ – the poor. The book is available for purchase on https://despauvresaupape.fr/acheter-un-livre/, with all proceeds entirely benefiting the poor.