8-year-old Singaporean girl invited for audience with Pope Francis

"Dear Pope Francis, why do you need that tall hat?"

That intriguing question was enough to earn 8-year-old Faith Ng an audience with the pontiff himself.

Her mother, Madam Jennifer Tan, recounted their experience of travelling to Rome to meet the Pope in February on the Catholic News, the official newspaper of Singapore's Roman Catholic Archdiocese.

She said that she had submitted Faith's question through their parish, the Church of St Ignatius, last year. The questions were to be part of a children's book titled "Dear Pope Francis".

They did not give much thought to the question until December last year, when they were invited to meet the pope by the book's publisher Loyola Press.

On Feb 22, the Primary Three student at CHIJ-Kellock met with Pope Francis at the Paul VI Audience Hall at St Peter's Square, along with 14 other children from 12 countries.

Madam Tan recalled that when the Pope entered the room where the children were waiting, he held up his arms, prompting the excited children to run towards him and enjoy a big group hug.

He then met the children one by one. When it was Faith's turn, she presented him with a card she made of pressed ferns and leaves from Singapore, a gift from children at her church, and a letter from her friend.

Pope Francis then blessed her and presented her with a copy of the children's book, as well as a doll. She also received a written reply to the question she had initially submitted, in which the pope explained that the hat is a symbol that he is a bishop.

During the hour-long audience, he also answered the children's questions, and expressed pain whenever he saw children who were suffering.

According to Today, Faith had to miss 12 days of school to go on the trip, but Madam Tan wrote in Catholic News that it was worth it.

"Of course! It did not matter that Faith would be missing many days of school. This was an opportunity of a lifetime," she wrote.