Pontiff Says Children Bear the Face of God

Brings Gifts to Pediatric Unit at Polyclinic

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ROME, JAN. 6, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says he wants children suffering illness to feel the closeness and affection of the Pope. He visited Rome's Polyclinic on the vigil of today's feast of the Epiphany, bearing gifts for the children being treated there.

"Why have I come here amid you today, day in which we begin to celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany?" the Pope asked them. "First of all to say thank you. Thank you, children, who have received me: I want to tell you that I love you and that I am close to you with my prayer and my affection, also to give you strength to face your sickness."

The Holy Father said his visit made him "somewhat like the Magi [… who] took gifts to Jesus -- gold, incense and myrrh -- to manifest to him their adoration and affection. Today, I have also brought some gifts, precisely so that you would feel, through a small sign, the sympathy, closeness and affection of the Pope."

Still, the Pontiff said, the "greatest gift was made by God to each one of us."

"Let us look in the cave of Bethlehem, in the crib, what do we see? Whom do we meet?" he said. "There is Mary, there is Joseph, but above all there is a small child, in need of attention, of care, of love: That child is Jesus, that child is God himself who willed to come on earth to show us how much he loves us; it is God who made himself a child like you to tell you that he is always beside you and to tell each one of us that every child bears his face."

During his visit, Benedict XVI visited the pediatric department on the fifth floor, the center for children with spina bifida, and the neonatal intensive care unit.

He also stopped on the seventh floor for a visit to the Paul VI International Scientific Institute, whose objective is the promotion of responsible procreation. He expressed a special word of encouragement to this initiative, saying it is at the "service of life."

"Thank you again to all!," he concluded. "The Pope loves you!"