Before God made the world, he was "loving". Or so says the Pope, answering a question asked of him by a child.
"What did God do before the world was made?" the child asked. "Do bad people have a guardian angel, too?" another child asked Pope Francis.
The questions are among 30 from children aged 6-13 in a new book to be published by Loyala Press in March in March, Dear Pope Francis.
"Children have questions and struggles just like adults, but rarely are they given the chance to voice their concerns and ask the big questions resting deep in their hearts," said Loyola Press. "In Dear Pope Francis, Pope Francis gives them that chance and celebrates their spiritual depth by directly answering questions from children around the world. Some are fun. Some are serious. And some will quietly break your heart. But all of them are from children who deserve to know and feel God's unconditional love."
While some of the questions are theological, others are practical and a few are about the Pope personally, including what he wanted to be when he grew up. Others are about Jesus, war, peace and heaven.
To the question about what God was doing he made the world, Pope Francis wrote: "Think of it this way: Before creating anything, God loved. That's what God was doing: God was loving."
Pope says in response to one question that when he was small he wanted to be a butcher. This was because his grandmother always bought meat from a butcher wearing an apron with a big pocket that seemed to be full of money.
The children's questions are "simple, but not silly," said Father Antonio Spadaro SJ, who went through the questions with the Pope, according to National Catholic Reporter.
Spadaro, who heads La Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit journal, and who did the first big interview with the Pope in 2013, said he was "in awe" of how the pope handled the questions and gave "inspired" answers.
"This is important," Spadaro said. "It says a lot about the magisterium of Pope Francis; he knows his ministry can reach children."
The 30 questions were chosen from those submitted by 259 children in 26 countries. The children were asked to send in drawings to go with the questions. The Pope has even been referring to some of them in his homilies. The question from 8-year-old Ryan in Canada about what God was doing before creation became the subject of his unscripted speech the Festival of Families in Philadelphia in the US in September.
Pope Francis said: "A young person once asked me - you know how young people ask hard questions! - 'Father, what did God do before he created the world?'
"Believe me, I had a hard time answering that one. I told him what I am going to tell you now. Before he created the world, God loved, because God is love."
Nine or ten of the children will visit Rome for a private audience with the Pope at the end of next month.