Glyzelle Palomar, a one-time homeless child taken in by a church charity, made her emotional plea during ceremonies at a Catholic university in Manila, ahead of a mass by the pope to millions of faithful.
“Many children are abandoned by their parents. Many children get involved in drugs and prostitution,” Palomar told the pope as she stood on stage alongside a 14-year-old boy who also used to be homeless.
“Why does God allow these things to happen to us? The children are not guilty of anything.”
Palomar broke down and wept profusely, prompting the 78-year-old pontiff with a man-of-the-people reputation to take her into his arms and hug her for a few seconds.
The pope later discarded most of his prepared speech that he was due to give in English, reverting back to his native Spanish to deliver an impromptu and heartfelt response.
“She is the only one who has put a question for which there is no answer and she wasn’t even able to express it in words but in tears,” the pope told a crowd that organisers said reached 30,000.
“The nucleus of your question… almost doesn’t have a reply.”