VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2008 ( Benedict XVI expressed his gratitude for the work of missionary children, and encouraged them to continue assisting others with a spirit of generosity and faith.

The Pope said this today, World Day of Missionary Childhood, which the Church celebrates on the solemnity of the Epiphany.

After praying the Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father said: "For more than 160 years, through the initiative of the French bishop Charles de Forbin Janson, the childhood of Jesus has become the icon for the commitment of Christian children who help the Church in her task of evangelization by prayer, sacrifice and gestures of solidarity.

"Thousands of children meet the needs of other children, driven by the love that the Son of God, become a child, brought to the earth. I say thanks to these little ones and I pray that they will always be missionaries.

"I also thank those who assist them, who accompany them along the road of generosity, of fraternity, of joyous faith that generates hope."


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