PONTIFICIUM OPUS A SANCTA INFANTIA
The Church and Children
THE POPE TO THE CHILDREN
is your responsability!
For the occasion of the closing of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, 6000 children from all over the world met with Pope John Paul II in Vatican City. Millions of others followed the encounter on television. Thus, just as the Holy Year began with the Jubilee of Children, the Holy Father also wished it to conclude with them. The event took place on the afternoon of Friday 5th January 2001. The children presented the Pope with songs, dances and gifts representing the five continents. The event culminated with an address from the Pope which we give below:
"Dear Children and Young People,
I welcome you with great joy! Thank you for this beautiful celebration which you have organized right at the end of the Jubilee. I greet you all with great affection: those of you here in the Paul VI Hall, and those who have joined us by television. (ÂÂ
The Holy Year opened with children; and it is right that it should also close with them. This is a positive sign of hope, a concrete wish for life. Above all, it is a homage to children, whom Jesus favoured and by whom he loved to be surrounded. To the people and to his disciples, he pointed to the little ones as models for entering the kingdom of heaven.
Dear friends! Your celebration is entitled "Following the Comet" and calls to mind the solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, which we will celebrate tomorrow. The comet reminds us of the Wise Men, the mysterious figures mentioned in the Gospel who were wise, cultured and expert in astronomy. But if we take a close look at them, they had childlike hearts fascinated by mystery; they were ready to accept the star's invitation and to leave everything in order to go and adore the King of the Jews, born in Bethlehem.
Dear friends, you who are children and young people today will tomorrow form the first generation of adult Christians in the third millennium. What a great responsibility you have! You will be the leading players at the next Jubilee in 2025. You will then be grown-ups: you may have started a family of your own, or have embraced the priestly life or been consecrated to a special mission in the Church at the service of God and neighbour.
And I, who have had the great satisfaction of leading the Church into the third millennium, look at you with my heart full of hope. In your eyes, in your tender faces, I can already glimpse the milestone of the next Jubilee. I look into the distance and pray for you. Dear young people, keep aloft and shining brightly the lamp of faith which this evening I symbolically entrust to you and to your contemporaries in every corner of the world. With this light, illumine the paths of life; set the world ablaze with love!
May Our Lady accompany you, and I affectionately bless you all".
(H. H. John Paul II's address to children, Friday 5th January 2001)
a special bond with the Virgin Mary
"With your groups you have made an even lovelier, richer and more joyful journey during this Year of the Great Jubilee which will certainly be fruitful. Together with your teachers and assistants, you have decided to become even more missionary, more capable of bringing to others the joy of having met Jesus. I am pleased with this missionary effort, and I tell you once again that I set great store by your collaboration in spreading the Gospel in families, at school, in sports activities and everywhere.
For my part, I accompany you with prayer so that, like Jesus, you may grow in wisdom and grace, before God and men. This will happen if you always love Our Lady and let her guide you. May the example of the shepherd children of Fátima, Francesco and Giacinta, whom this very year I had the joy of beatifying, show once again that children have a special bond with the Virgin Mary. With her help, they can reach the peaks of holiness".
(H. H. John Paul II's address to the young people of Italian Catholic Action,
Thursday 21st December 2000)
THE POPE AND THE CHILDREN
We must all be
"All the just of the earth, including those who do not know Christ and His Church, who under the influence of grace, seek God with a sincere heart (cf. Lumen gentium 16) are thus called to build the kingdom of God by working with the Lord, who is its first and decisive builder. Therefore, we must entrust ourselves in his hands, to his Word, to his guidance, like inexperienced children who find security only in the Father: "Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child", Jesus said, 'shall not enter it'" (Luke 18, 17).
(H. H. John Paul II, catechesis, Wednesday 6th December 2000)
"But how can we forget the mood of celebration of the first great gathering dedicated to children? In a way, to begin with them meant respecting Christ's command: "Let the children come to me" (Mk 10:14). Perhaps even more it meant doing what he did when he placed a child in the midst of the disciples and made it the very symbol of the attitude which we should have if we wish to enter the Kingdom of God (cf. Mt 18:2-4)".
(H. H. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte)
A child conceived is always
an invitation to live and hope
"In memory of the day on which Mary conceived the Child Jesus, I would like to send a special blessing to women who are expecting a child and, in particular, to those who find themselves in difficult circumstances. To all of them I say: A child conceived is always an invitation to live and hope".
(H. H. John Paul II, Sunday 25th March 2001)
Everyone can and
should participate in evangelization
"But the entire People of God must be at the side of those who labour in the front lines of the mission "ad gentes", with each one making his contribution, as the founders of the Pontifical Mission Societies understood and stressed so well: everyone can and should participate in evangelization: even the young, even the sick, even the poor with their mite, just like the widow whom Jesus held up as an example (cf. Lk 21: 1-4). Mission is the work of all God's People, each one in the vocation to which Providence has called him".
(H. H. John Paul II, homily of Sunday 22nd October 2000, World Mission Day)
are still victims of hunger, of wars
"Is it not true that in vast areas of the globe, children are unfortunately still victims of hunger, wars, appalling illnesses such as AIDS and the perversion of unscrupulous adults, which threaten their innocence and gravely jeopardize their future?"
(H. H. John Paul II to the General Chapter of the Benedictine Sisters
of Divine Providence, 25th August 2000)
The situation of children
is really a challenge for society as a whole
For the occasion of the Jubilee of Families, the Holy Father issued the following message:
"The theme of your Jubilee - Children: springtime of the family and society - can offer you some significant suggestions in this regard. Do not children themselves in a way continually "examine" their parents? They do so not only with their frequent "whys?", but with their very faces, sometimes smiling, sometimes misty with sadness. It is as if a question were inscribed in their whole existence, a question which is expressed in the most varied ways, even in their whims, and which we could put into questions like these: Mama, papa, do you love me? Am I really a gift for you? Do you accept me for what I am? Do you always try to do what is really best for me?
These questions perhaps are asked more with their eyes than in words, but they hold parents to their great responsibility and are in some way an echo of God's voice for them.
Children are a "springtime": what does this metaphor chosen for your Jubilee mean? It takes us into that panorama of life, colours, light and song which belongs to the spring season. Children are all of this by nature. They are the hope that continually blossoms, a project that starts ever anew, the future that opens without ceasing. They represent the flowering of married love, which is found and strengthened in them. At their birth they bring a message of life which in the ultimate analysis refers back to the very Author of life. In need of everything as they are, especially in the first stage of life, they naturally appeal to our solidarity.
Not by chance did Jesus invite his disciples to have a child's heart (cf. Mk 10: 13-16). Today, dear families, you wish to give thanks for the gift of children and, at the same time, to accept the message that God sends you through their existence.
Unfortunately, as we know so well, the situation of children in the world is not always what it should be. In many regions, and paradoxically right in the more prosperous countries, bringing children into the world has become a decision taken with great hesitation, well beyond that prudence which is necessarily required for responsible procreation. It could be said that at times children are seen as more of a threat than a gift.
And what can we say then of the other sad sight of abused and exploited children, to which I called attention in the Letter to Children? (ÂÂ
The situation of children is really a challenge for society as a whole, a challenge posed directly to families. No one knows as you do, dear parents, how essential it is for children to be able to count on you, on both of you - fathers and mothers - in the complementarity of your gifts. No, it is not a step forward for civilized society to support trends that obscure this elementary truth and even demand to be legally recognized.
Are children not already too heavily penalized by the scourge of divorce? How sad it is for a child to have to divide his love between parents in conflict! So many children will always bear the psychological scar of the suffering that their parents' separation caused them. (ÂÂ
At the same time, you cannot avoid the essential question about your mission as teachers. Having given life to your children, you are also obliged to accompany them, in a way appropriate for their age, in their directions and life-decisions, while being concerned for all their rights.
In our era, the recognition of children's rights has made doubtless progress, but the practical denial of these rights, as seen in the many terrible assaults on their dignity, remains a cause of distress. We must be on guard so that the good of the child is always given priority: beginning with the moment that a child is desired. The tendency to use morally unacceptable reproductive practices reveals the absurd mentality of a "right to a child", which has replaced the due recognition of the "right of a child" to be born and later to grow in a fully human way. How different and worthy of encouragement, on the other hand, is the practice of adoption! A true act of charity, which looks to the welfare of children before the demands of parents. (ÂÂ
To you dear mothers, who bear deep within you an irrepressible instinct for the defence of life, I make a heartfelt appeal: always be sources of life, never of death!
I say to you both, mothers and fathers: you have been called to the exalted mission of cooperating with the Creator in the transmission of life (Letter to Families, n. 8); do not be afraid of life! Together proclaim the value of the family and of life. Without these values, there is no future worthy of man!"
(H. H. John Paul II, 14th October 2000)