Pope Benedict XVI told a Japanese girl frightened by the devastating quake and tsunami in her homeland that suffering isn’t in vain and assured a Muslim woman in violence-wracked Ivory Coast of the Vatican’s peace efforts as he conducted an unprecedented televised question and answer session to mark Good Friday.

Benedict, in a prerecorded appearance on Italian state TV, replied to some of a few thousand questions submitted by Catholics and non-Catholics alike on the solemn day when Christians reflect on the suffering and crucifixion of Christ.

The unusual TV appearance was broadcast a few hours before Benedict was due at a service of prayer and meditation in St. Peter’s Basilica. Later, he was expected at the Colosseum for the traditional Way of the Cross procession.

Dressed in white robes during the Q&A, he sat at a desk and, speaking softly in Italian, answered questions that mainly grappled with suffering. The first came from Elena, a 7-year-old Japanese girl who told the pope many children her age were killed and asked why children have to be so sad.

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