There is one way to annoy Jesus, Pope Francis said on Saturday: Keep the children from coming to him. The Roman Pontiff was speaking July 11 as part a question and answer session with a group of children receiving treatment at the “Ni√±os de Acosta √ëu” pediatric hospital in Ascuncion, the Paraguayan capital. The visit was the first stop on his first full day in the South American nation. “Dear children, I want to ask you a question; maybe you can help me. They tell me that you are all very intelligent, and so I want to ask you: Did Jesus ever get annoyed?” The Pope answered that the only time Mark’s Gospel records Christ being “annoyed” was the instance in which the disciples try to prevent the children from coming to him. “We would say that he was really ‘ticked off’.” “Do you get annoyed every now and then?” he asked. “Jesus felt that way when they wouldn’t let the children come to him. He was really mad. He loved children.” The pediatric hospital was one of the stops on Pope Francis’ visit to Paraguay, the last country in his tri-nation visit to the continent of his birth from July 5-13. The journey has also included visits to Ecuador and Bolivia. The Pope clarified that it was not that Christ didn’t like adults, but rather he was especially happy being in the company of children, and “being friends with them.” More than this, however, Christ wanted children to be an example to others, telling his disciples that that “unless you become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” “The children kept coming to Jesus, and the adults kept trying to keep them away, but Jesus called them, embraced them and brought them forward, so that people us could learn to be like them.” Pope Francis said Christ has the same message for us today. “We need to learn from you,” he told the children. “We need to learn from your trust, your joy, and your tenderness. We need to learn from your ability to fight, from your strength, from your remarkable endurance.” “Some of you are fighters. And when we look at young ‘warriors’ like you, we feel very proud,” he said. “Looking at you gives us strength, it gives us the courage to trust, to keep moving forward.” Pope Francis then turned to the parents and grandparents of the children receiving treatment at the hospital, and the “moments of great suffering and uncertainty” they experience. “There are times of heartrending anguish but also moments of immense happiness. These two feelings often collide deep within us,” he said. Despite these difficulties, there is support which comes from the community of families, doctors, and hospital staff. “There is no better relief than your tender compassion, your closeness to one another. It makes me happy to know that as families you help, encourage and support each other, so that you can keep going in these difficult moments.” The Roman Pontiff expressed his gratitude in particular to the doctors, nurses, and staff at the hospital. “I thank them for their vocation of service, for helping not only to care for, but also to be there, for these young brothers and sisters of ours who suffer,” he said. Pope Francis once again reminded those present of Christ's closeness to children. “He is very near, in our hearts. Never hesitate to pray to him, to talk to him, to share with him your questions and your pain. He is always with us, he is ever near and he will not let us fall.” The Pope concluded by encouraging those present to turn to Mary. “Wherever there is a son or daughter, there is always a mother. Wherever Jesus is, there is Mary, the Virgin of Caacupé,” he said.
“Let us ask her to wrap us in her mantle, to protect and intercede for you and for your families. And also, please don’t forget to pray for me. I am certain that your prayers are heard in heaven.”