Pope Wants Lent to Be a "Contest of Solidarity" With Children

Points to the Hope of Jesus' Victory Over Satan

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 29, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II asked that this Lent be a time of "spiritual commitment" and a "contest of solidarity" toward children.



The Pope made this appeal today in his address before praying the Angelus with the thousand of people gathered in St. Peter's Square. The Holy Father reflected on the meaning of these 40 days of preparation for Easter that began on Ash Wednesday.

On the First Sunday of Lent, the Pontiff began with a reflection on today's Gospel, the temptations of Christ in the desert, to emphasize the meaning of Lenten asceticism.

"Jesus' victory over the Evil One assures us that we will not succumb in the time of trial, if we remain united to the Lord," he said.

"In this perspective, Lent invites us to special commitment in the spiritual journey," John Paul II stressed.

He then referred to his Message for Lent, in which he asked that the fruits of Christians' self-denial and sacrifices be directed to help children, "too often innocent victims of the wickedness of men."

That Lenten message mentioned the sufferings of children, such as "sexual abuse, forced prostitution, involvement in the sale and use of drugs; children forced to work or enlisted for combat; young children scarred forever by the breakup of the family, little ones caught up in the obscene trafficking of organs and persons."

"What, too, of the tragedy of AIDS?" the Holy Father asked in the document.

John Paul II said the Church "dedicates special attention" to children because Christ himself said, "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me."

"May this period of the liturgical year," the Pope told the pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, "be transformed into a generous contest of solidarity toward these little ones, especially those in the gravest dangers and difficulties."