More than 300,000 students, their families, and teachers filled St. Peter Square to celebrate the the "Church for Schools" day, organized by the Italian bishops' conference, as a way to support Catholic education.
Attendance exceeded all expectations, and the crowd overflowed into neighboring streets like Via della Conciliazione. The Pope made his way along the popemobile for about 45 minutes, greeting and blessing people. He was especially attentive towards ill children.
Pope Francis told students he loved school. He explained that this affection for education came from one of his school teachers.
"I remember my first teacher, that woman, that teacher I had when I was six years old, in first grade. I have never forgotten her. She is why I loved school. I visited throughout her life, until she passed away, at 98."
The Pope said that school is a place of encounter, where parents can meet professors and collaborate along with them. That's why, he said, family and school go hand in hand. He also referenced an African proverb, which he had everyone repeat.
"This makes me think of an African proverb, which says: 'It takes a village to raise a child.' Let us all say it together: 'It takes a village to raise a child.' All together: 'It takes a village to raise a child.'"
It's in school he said, where one learns truth, good and beauty. He also emphasized the three and most important languages learned in school.
"A path that leads to the three languages that a mature person needs to know: the language of the mind, the language of the heart, and the language of the hands. All in harmony. In other words, think of what you feel and do; listen to what you think and what you do; and do well what you think and do. The three languages, in harmony and together."
Before saying goodbye, the Pope made a special request to the students, parents and school teachers.
"Please, please don't let our love for school be taken away."
The Pope was actually a teacher years ago. In the 1960's and 70's, in Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio taught literature and psychology to young students. He was also a professor at the San Miguel School of Theology.