During a visit to a 400-year-old university in Manila, Philippines on Sunday, the head of the Catholic Church was left speechless by a 12-year-old's question.
Glyzelle Palomar, who was in the middle of her speech detailing her experiences as a child who once lived in the streets, burst into tears when she asked Pope Francis, "Many children get involved in drugs and prostitution. Why does God allow these things to happen to us? The children are not guilty of anything."
Palomar, together with a boy who also gave a testimony about his struggles as a homeless child, was brought to the Pope, who wrapped them both in an embrace.
According to Rappler, Palomar was homeless before finding shelter in a community run by the Tulay ng Kabataan foundation, a non-governmental organization that tends to Metro Manila's street children.
The Independent reports that the pontiff was so moved that he discarded his prepared speech in English and instead told the girl in his native Spanish, "She is the only one who has put forward a question for which there is no answer and she was not even able to express it in words but rather in tears."
Turning to the 30,000-strong crowd who came to see him, the Pope implored the faithful to be compassionate.
He said, "I invite each one of you to ask yourselves, 'Have I learned how to weep, how to cry when I see a hungry child, a child on the street who uses drugs, a homeless child, an abandoned child, an abused child, a child that society uses as a slave'?"
The Pope spoke about street children again during his Mass in Rizal Park, where six million people turned up despite the rain according to the Philippine News Agency.
"We need to see each child as a gift to be welcomed, cherished and protected," CNN quotes the Pope as saying. "And we need to care for our young, not allowing them to be condemned to a life on the streets."
The Pope, who condemned the "scandalous social inequalities," in the country, also urged the faithful "to work together, [protect] one another, beginning with your families and communities."
According to the He Cares Foundation, another group that rescues Filipino street children, there are currently more than 1.5 million homeless children in the Philippines, 70,000 of them living on the streets of Metro Manila.