Pope Thanks "Little Missionaries" for Spreading Gospel

World Day of Missionary Childhood Celebrated on Epiphany

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 8, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II recalled the 160th anniversary of the Pontifical Missionary Society of Holy Childhood, a group that relies on youngsters for support to spread the Gospel.



The society proposes to children prayer and the offering of "gestures of concrete solidarity, even at the cost of personal sacrifice, for the good of their contemporaries who still do not know Jesus and live in difficult situations," the Pope said, following the recitation of the midday Angelus in St. Peter's Square on Monday.

"I thank all these 'little missionaries' for their contribution to the spread of the Gospel and I hope that they will know how to witness to it every day with their life," he added.

The purpose of the World Day of Missionary Childhood, observed on Jan. 6, feast of the Epiphany, is to awaken in children a missionary consciousness, as well as material and spiritual communion with other children throughout the world, especially those of the poorest regions.

"Children must save children" was the invitation with which Bishop Charles de Forbin Janson of Nancy began the Missionary Society of Holy Childhood in Paris on May 9, 1843. The group is known today as the Pontifical Missionary Society of Holy Childhood, part of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Last year the group distributed more than $13 million in aid for 2,667 projects worldwide: 1,181 in Africa, 1,247 in Asia, 188 in the Americas, 30 in Oceania, and 21 in Europe.

By contrast, the children of the missionary society funded 300 projects in 1983.