ASUNCION, Paraguay (CNS) — Pope Francis greeted patients and their families in a children’s hospital July 11 before traveling to the Marian shrine of Caacupe to celebrate Mass.

The pope spent about half an hour in the “Ninos de Acosta Nu” general pediatric hospital, where he visited various wards and spoke privately with children and parents.


Afterward, he spoke briefly to the crowd waiting outside. Instead of using the short prepared text, he spoke off the cuff, telling his listeners that Jesus became angry when his disciples did not allow children to approach him.

He reminded those gathered that Jesus said only those who have the simplicity of children will enter the kingdom of heaven.

With his hand on the head of one small boy who had had his arms around the pontiff, Pope Francis said he knew that the parents and grandparents of sick children suffered and urged them to pray for the children.

He also encouraged the doctors, nurses and other staff of the hospital and thanked them for their work.

The “Ninos de Acosta Nu” hospital takes its name from a particularly brutal battle during the War of the Triple Alliance in the 1860s, when many children were killed and many mothers either had the task of recovering their children’s bodies or were killed with them.