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Pope's surprise meeting with Japanese students

Pope Francis talks about need for dialogue

Alessandro Speciale, Vatican City
Vatican City

August 22, 2013

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Pope Francis had a surprise encounter with a group of Japanese students visiting Rome yesterday.

The Argentine pontiff talked and joked with the group from Tokyo's Seibu Gauken Bunri Junior High School, which sends a group of students and teachers to visit Italy every year.

Rather than vacationing in the papal villa as predecessors did, Francis is spending the summer in Rome to work on the reform of the Curia, which should kick off in the next few months.

But he has been finding time for unplanned meetings such as the one with the Japanese students.

Speaking in Italian with simultaneous translation into Japanese, Francis recalled that peace must be founded on dialogue carried out with meekness.

“All the wars, all the strife, all the unsolved problems over which we clash are due to the lack of dialogue,” he said to the 200 or so students gathered in the Vatican's St Damasus Courtyard.

The pope praised the Japanese students' trip to Italy as a way to “becoming acquainted with other people and other cultures.”

“If we seek out other people, other cultures, other ways of thinking, other religions, we go out of ourselves and start that most beautiful adventure which is called 'dialogue'.”

This experience, he said, is what “makes us grow” while “if we are isolated in ourselves... we  have only what we have, we cannot develop culturally,” he added.

After the papal address, one of the students thanked the pope in Italian. Francis jokingly commented “Were you born in Naples? You speak good Italian!”

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