Cries of Starving Children Should Stir Up Hearts, Says Pope

John Paul II Urges Youngsters to Show Solidarity

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 15, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The "heartbreaking" cry of children who die of hunger and sicknesses should stir the conscience of everyone, John Paul II said when he met with 8,000 children in the Vatican.



The little ones, who came on Saturday accompanied by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, are members of the Pontifical Society for Missionary Childhood, which is marking its 160th anniversary this year.

"The cry of millions of children in the south of the planet, condemned to die of hunger and sicknesses linked to poverty, has become more heartbreaking and stirs everyone," the Holy Father said.

Recalling that Missionary Childhood's motto is "Children Help Children," the Pontiff analyzed the profound changes humanity has experienced during the institution's century and a half of life.

"In the so-called north of the world, the conditions of life of children have improved, but economic and social development has not always been accompanied by human development in the fullest sense," he said.

"There has been a loss of values and the highest price has been paid, precisely, by the littlest ones, without forgetting that in developed nations also, areas of great poverty remain," the Holy Father added.

Given this reality, he invited the children who were listening to him to form "a chain of solidarity across the five continents" and also to offer "the possibility to the poorest to give and to the rich to receive by giving."

This is the work carried out by Missionary Childhood, founded by Bishop Charles de Forbin Janson of Nancy, France, for the purpose, initially, to help needy children in China. The bishop asked children to pray a Hail Mary every day and to give a coin a month to help their Asian contemporaries. Today the "little missionaries" number in the millions, in parishes, schools and movements throughout the world.

For his part, the Pope invited the children to pray the rosary daily, as did Jacinta and Francisco, the visionaries at Fatima.