Vatican – First World Children's Day: Pope Francis entrusts the world and peace to the little ones

27 May 2024

(ANS– Vatican City) – A simple and joyful celebration, as are children all over the world: this was the First World Children's Day (WCD), established by Pope Francis at the suggestion of a child, and held on the weekend of 25-26 May 2024 in Rome. In the two stages of the event – Saturday afternoon at the Olympic Stadium and Sunday morning in St Peter's Square – the Holy Father spoke with the little ones in an affectionate and sincere way, entrusting them with the task of cultivating friendship and peace, caring for the poor, the elderly, the sick and the whole world.

The Olympic Stadium event opened with a parade of 101 delegations – from Afghanistan to Zambia – which gave a sense of the real universality of this WCD, an event promoted by the Vatican Dicastery for Culture and Education. The afternoon then continued with moments of musical entertainment, testimonies and sports, and including performances of singers established or loved by children and moments of play with great champions of the recent past, and a child from each continent told his life and what worries him.

Victor, 13, from Bethlehem, has seen the sky occupied by missiles for eight months and wonders: "What have we children done wrong if we were born in Bethlehem, Jerusalem or Gaza?" Eugenia, from Kharkiv in Ukraine, wants peace and does not want children to hear the bombs fall and see death. Mila, from New Zealand, fears for the future of the planet due to the increase in flooding, just as Mateo from Buenos Aires said he is anxious for children who are sick and have nothing to eat.

Upon his arrival, the Pope, welcomed by great cheers from all those present, urged them to repeat "Behold, I make all things new", the motto of the WCD, and acted as a true entertainer with the little ones. "In you, children, everything speaks of life, of the future. And the Church, which is a mother, welcomes you, accompanies you with tenderness and hope (...) God wants this, everything that is not new passes away. God is new. The Lord always gives us the news" he said, before reminding everyone that "Jesus loves you!" and inviting the 50,000 present to say a Hail Mary "to the Mother of Heaven".

In the subsequent conversation with some children's representatives, Pope Francis gave genuine smiles and answers, within everyone's reach. "How do you love everyone?" asked Riccardo, a Gypsy child from Scampia. Let us begin with loving those who are closest to us, the Pope replied, and then let us move on.

"I am happy to be with you because you are joyful and have the joy of hope for the future" Pope Francis reiterated shortly afterwards. If he could work a miracle, he would ask that all children have what they need to live, eat and go to school, and that "everyone be happy," he said in response to an Indonesian girl. A child from Nicaragua asked him why so many people don't have a home or a job. "It is the result of malice, selfishness and war" the Pontiff stressed.

"How do we open the heart of the great ones?", asked Ido again, from South Korea, protagonist of the short film "the House of all", representation of the spirit of the WCD, in which the girl meets a homeless man and leads him to St Peter's Basilica. There are many people closed "with a hard heart, with a heart that looks like a wall", the Pope observed. It is not easy, he repeats, but you children, the Pope said, must have this hope of doing things that make adults think. "You must knock on the doors of the great (...) and, indeed, you must also knock on God's doors. You children can make a real revolution with these questions and these concerns".

Pope Francis' thoughts then went to the elderly, prompted by Iolanda's question. "Long live grandparents", he told children of the Olimpico, after remembering the importance of seeing them and visiting them.

After the first session, the 50 thousand at  the Olimpico gathered in St Peter's Square for Mass on the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, a fine and well-prepared celebration , but at the same time accessible to the little ones. The Pontiff first of all offered a clear and lively catechesis in which he summed up the great mystery of the Trinity in a few simple words: the Father created us, Jesus saved us, the Holy Spirit "accompanies us in life", as he had the assembly repeat again and again, aware that of the three persons of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is the most difficult to know and understand.

There were also special references to Jesus, "who always forgives... even the ugliest of sinners", and to Mary, the mother of all. Finally, the Pope also urged the little ones to pray for peace, for parents, for grandparents and for sick children. And at the end of the celebration he announced that the WCD will have a second edition in September 2026.

After the Mass, celebrations ended with the Angelus in the short version and an address by the director and Oscar-winning actor Roberto Benigni, who among various quotes summed up the meaning of the event stating: "Take flight, take your life in hand and make a masterpiece of it... Build a better world, make it more beautiful, that we have not succeeded."


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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