Glyzelle Palomar wept as she asked the Pope: “Many children get involved in drugs and prostitution. Why does God allow these things to happen to us? The children are not guilty of anything.”

The pontiff, cementing his reputation as a champion of the poor and oppressed, took the 12-year-old in his arms to comfort her.

He was so touched by the girl’s appeal that he abandoned his pre-prepared speech in English and instead responded to the child in Spanish, his native language.