World Children’s Day: “Alessandro’s intuition”

Father Giuseppe De Stefano, member of the executive committee of World Children’s Day, recalls the genesis of this event. Last year, a little boy suggested to the Pope that he organize an event dedicated to young people, like what has been done for young people for almost forty years. “In the Gospel, Jesus places children at the center, today the Holy Father asks us to do the same,” says Father Giuseppe.

Andrea De Angelis – Vatican City

Above all, I address each person personally, to you, dear child, because you are precious in the eyes of God, as the Bible teaches us and as Jesus demonstrated so many times“. This is how Pope Francis addressed the message of the first World Children’s Day to children around the world. This major international event brings together children from all over the world on May 25 and 26 in Rome, with the meeting at the Olympic Stadium on the afternoon of May 25. A centrality, that of children, also present in the Gospel, as Father Giuseppe De Stefano recalls, in an interview given to the Vatican media, a few hours before the start of the event.

Jesus and the children

What does it mean to put children at the center? “The message of the Holy Father helps us to remember that in children we find all the newness of the Gospel, they are the ones who express what the Church is, mother and child at the same time.», replies Father Giuseppe. A message in which Francis reminds us that “we are all children and brothers, and no one can exist without someone having given birth to him”, and then prompts “to listen to children, putting them back at the center as Jesus did“. For the Church, this means “return to the freshness of the Spirit, without closing our eyes to history, because the value of the little ones according to the heart of God, cannot lead us to close our eyes to the problems of childhood“. The clergyman returns to recent data published by Unicef, according to which, “400 million children live in war zones» and tens of thousands of little ones are «killed and mutilated”, an average of “20 per day.

The genesis of World Children’s Day

The action of the Holy Spirit inspired Pope Francis through the voice of a child, Alessandro, who in a podcast called for a World Children’s Day, as is already done for young people with WYD“. This podcast was produced by Vatican Radio – Vatican News in July 2023. The Pope responded: “It’s a great idea, then you must come to Rome with parents and grandparents», remembers Father Giuseppe, specifying that it all started from there.

The organization therefore began with the Dicastery for Culture and Education and, after the announcement last December, “Today“, he explained, “we have about 100,000 children”. “When we multiply the wealth of charisms, gifts and initiatives, such as the Community of Sant’Egidio, sports organizations, different associations, schools, we see a growth in commitment which today leads to this», all coordinated by Father Enzo Fortunato.

Children, adults and the elderly

Pope Francis has repeatedly emphasized the considerable importance of intergenerational dialogue. “Listening is not only hearing, but also adhering and obeying“. An obedience whichdoes not mean submission”, but, he indicated, who “means trusting those I listened to, which is good for me. I believe that adults must listen to young people and children, who have the right to express their novelty“, Otherwise “we are not building a tradition that endures with the Spirit, but we are doing archeology“. At the same time, invited the religious, “young people and children must listen to adults without the arrogance of someone born a scholar. Where there is listening, there is acceptance, respect, dignity and kindness“.

Finally, Father Giuseppe De Stefano emphasizes that Francis pays great attention “toto children and the elderly, who are the most fragile links in society. The elderly so that they are not rejected, the children so that they are educated in their sacredness“. So there is “a world of adults, a Church of adults which must assume this great witness: listening to children and the elderly, putting the weakest link at the center», concluded the priest.

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