Pope celebrates peace with children gathered in Rome for first WCD

By Lisa Zengarini, 3 June 2024
Pope Francis at the first World Children's Day on the 25-26 May 2024 held in Rome. Image: Vatican Media/Vatican News.


Pope Francis asks children gathered in Rome’s stadium for the first World Children’s Day (WCD) to pray for their peers who are suffering from war and injustice and encourages them to continue dreaming for a better future.

Some 50,000 children hailing from several countries around the globe gathered in Rome’s Olympic Stadium on Saturday afternoon to meet Pope Francis and reflect with him on their importance in the world’s future, as part of the first ever World Children’s Day (WCD). Peace was the main theme of the event.

The Pope arrived at 4.40 p.m. on his popemobile and was greeted with applause and by the hymn “A Beautiful World,” sung by the Choir of the Diocese of Rome.

In children everything speaks of life and the future 

He then addressed the young lively audience with a brief introductory speech in which he called for responses from the children.

The Pope opened his address by noting that in children “everything speaks of life and the future”, and by reaffirming that the Church, “as a mother”, welcomes them and accompanies them “with tenderness and hope.

He explained that he was inspired to convene the World Children’s Day by the meeting he held with children in the Vatican on November 7 on the theme “Let’s Learn from Boys and Girls”. “I realized that our conversation had to continue and extend to more children and young people,” he said.

Pray for children who suffer from wars and injustice 

The Pope then engaged in a series of questions with the children, starting from the many wars raging in several parts of the world. “Are you sad about the wars?”, “Is war a nice thing?”; “Is peace beautiful?” he asked, inviting the young audience to pray for children who suffer from wars, cannot go to school, are hungry, or neglected.

Pope Francis then drew their attention to the motto of the event, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev. 21:5).  “It’s beautiful because it tells us that God brings new things into being.”, he said.

Continue to be joyful

Finally, the Holy Father encouraged the children to move forth with courage and joy, which is “the health of the soul”, saying that Jesus loves them. He concluded by inviting them to pray the Hail Mary with him.

A lively dialogue on peace and faith 

After his greeting speech Pope Francis continued his dialogue, with some children representing the five continents asking him several questions.

“Is it true that peace is always possible?” asked Jeronimo from Colombia.  Francis recalled once again the importance of apologizing and asking for forgiveness to make peace. “What can children do to make the world a better place?” asked Lia Marise from Burundi.  “Don’t argue, help others,” the Pope replied. A girl from Indonesia, which Pope Francis will visit in September this year, asked what miracle he would choose to perform. “That all children have what they need to live, to eat, to play, to go to school. This is the miracle that I would like to do,” he assured after answering to Federico, an Italian boy who asked him how we can help children suffering.

“There are children who can’t satisfy their basic needs. We should all be equal, but that’s not the case,” Pope Francis acknowledged. “This happens because of selfishness, because of injustice…Let us all work so that there is not so much injustice in the world,” he said.

Pope Francis then asked for moment of silence and to think of all the unfortunate children in the world who do not have anything to eat.

Mass for the first WCD to be celebrated on Sunday in St. Peter’s Square

The dialogue was interspersed by music, a short video and even a brief soccer match with Italian footballers in a festive atmosphere, and concluded with the children offering the Pope their drawings.

They will see him again on Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, where he will preside over Mass for this first World Day of Children on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

With thanks to Vatican News and Lisa Zengarini, where this article originally appeared.

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