Pope Benedict XVI consoled a 7-year-old Japanese girl, reassured a mother about her ailing son's soul and advised a Muslim woman that dialogue was the way to peace in Ivory Coast.
In a push to engage the world electronically, the pontiff fielded their questions during an unusual Good Friday appearance on Italian TV. Seven questions were selected from thousands that poured in via RAI television's website, and Benedict recorded his answers last week.
The first question came from young Elena, who asked the pope why she felt so afraid after Japan's earthquake.
"Why do children have to be so sad?" the girl asked. "I'm asking the pope, who speaks with God, to explain it to me."
Speaking simply as if Elena were right there, Benedict, 84, responded that he too wondered why so many innocent people suffer, but that she should take heart in knowing that Jesus had suffered too.
"You can be sure that in the world, in the universe, there are many people who are with you, thinking of you, doing what they can for you to help you," Benedict said.
He then turned to a question from an Italian mother, Maria Teresa, who worried about her son, Francesco, who has been in a vegetative state since Easter 2009. She asked if Francesco's soul still remained.
"He feels the presence of love," Benedict told her, praising her for keeping her vigil as a "true act of love."
"I encourage you, therefore, to carry on, to know that you are giving a great service to humanity with this sign of faith, with this sign of respect for life, with this love for a wounded body and a suffering soul," he said.
Monsignor Paul Tighe, the No. 2 in the Vatican's social communications office, said the decision to have the pope participate in the televised event stemmed from the realization that Benedict must engage more with the public to ensure his message is received.
Bintu, a Muslim woman, asked him for his advice on bringing peace to Ivory Coast.
"The only path is to renounce violence, to begin anew with dialogue, with the attempt to find peace together," the pontiff said.
Benedict then conducted a more traditional Good Friday event -- the nighttime Way of the Cross procession at Rome's Colosseum.