VATICAN CITY, MARCH 28, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address John Paul II gave today before praying the midday Angelus with several thousand pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. The address was in Italian.
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1. In this year’s Lenten Message, I requested that children be the focus of attention of Christian communities. Many of them are victims of serious illnesses, including tuberculosis and AIDS. They lack instruction and suffer from hunger. Undernourishment and malnutrition, aggravated by worrying health needs, continue to be the daily cause of death of many of these little ones, deprived even of the indispensable minimum to survive.
2. In some parts of the world, especially in the poorer countries, there are children and adolescents who are victims of a terrible form of violence. They are recruited to combat in so-called forgotten conflicts. They are subjected, in fact, to a double scandalous aggression: They are both victims and at the same time protagonists of war, engulfing them in the hatred of adults. Deprived of everything, they see their future menaced by a nightmare that is difficult to dispel.
3. These littlest brothers of ours, who suffer from hunger, war and illnesses, make an anguished appeal to the world of adults. May their silent cry of pain not go unheard! Jesus reminds us: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me” (Matthew 18:5).
The Lenten period urges Christians to a more generous acceptance of these Gospel words, to translate them into courageous actions in favor of children at risk and abandoned.
May the Virgin Mary Mother of God help children in difficulty and render fruitful the efforts of all those who with love seek to alleviate their sufferings.
[Translation by ZENIT]