By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Pope Francis has made a surprise visit to high school students.

This Friday before Christmas, Dec. 20, 2019, the Bishop of Rome left the Vatican in a blue car and made a surprise visit to Pilo Albertelli High School, in the Esquiline neighborhood in Rome, not far from its central train station.

With Pope Francis upon arrival was Director of Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Andrea Monda, who was a religion teacher at the high school, and the school’s principal. Francis greeted the teaching staff, personnel and young people who had written the texts of the meditations for the 2018 Good Friday Via Crucis at the Colosseum, the year when he had entrusted the meditations to Monda and his students.

According to Italian reports, Francis was greeted by the applause of students and teachers as he entered the school, where he reminded them to live consistently with their faith, and that “coherence will make you mature.”

Later in the day, Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, issued a statement with additional details, noting Francis entered the schoolyard and some 800 students were there waiting for him. After some sang for him and the principal said a few words of welcome, Francis spoke to the young people.

According to the statement, he spoke of solitude, migration, and responded to a question on the coexistence between different cultures and religions. Specifically, he recalled how in Argentina, with its different immigrants, there have been challenges and how necessary it is for different people to live together.

“In addressing non-believers,” the statement said, “the Pope stressed the value of witness to reawaken curiosity about the Gospel and the faith.” He also reminded the value of dreaming and sports or downtime.

Francis also responded to a question on “true teachers,” discussing the relationship between teacher and disciple, “a gift that he himself was able to recall in past days speaking of his Spiritual Father, Miguel Angel Fiorito,” Bruni said.

When the bell had rung, the Pope expressed his best wishes for a happy Christmas and, before leaving, answered a last question of a boy on the contradiction of the use of war to bring peace and security. In mentioning the tragic situations in some countries, he announced his video-message on the theme of peace, recorded with the United Nations Secretary General, at the end of the meeting held this morning.

Then the Holy Father got back into the little blue car and returned to the Vatican.

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