Pope's Discourse to the Delegation of the International Catholic Office of Children

Francis says children are not «laboratory guinea-pigs»

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Here is a translation of the Pope’s address when he received in audience this morning a delegation from the International Catholic Office of Children (BICE).


Dear Friends,

I thank you for this meeting. I appreciate your efforts in favor of children: it is a concrete and timely expression of the predilection that the Lord Jesus has for them.

I like to say that, in a well constituted society, privileges should be only for children and the elderly, because the future of a people is in their hands. The children because they certainly will carry force in face of history, and the elderly because they are the seat of wisdom of a people and they must contribute that wisdom.

We can say that BICE was born of the maternity of the Church. In fact, it had its origin in Pope Pius XII’s intervention in defense of children, once Word War II had ended. Since then, this organization has always been committed to promoting the defense of the rights of minors, contributing also to the United Nations Convention of 1989. And in this endeavor it collaborates constantly with the offices of the Holy See in New York, Strasbourg and especially in Geneva.

You … with a delicate spirit of “fineness” spoke about good treatment. I thank you for this gentle expression but I feel called up to take charge of all the evil that some priests — quite a few, quite a few in number, not in comparison with the totality — to take charge and ask for forgiveness for the harm they have done because of sexual abuses of children. The Church is conscious of this harm, which is a personal, moral harm of their own, but men of the Church. And we are not going to take a step back in regard to the treatment of these problems and of the sanctions that must be in place; on the contrary, I think we must be very strong; one does not fool around with children.

In our days it is important to carry forward projects against slave labor, against the recruitment of child soldiers and any type of violence to children.

Said positively, it is necessary to reaffirm the right of children to grow up in a family, with a father and a mother capable of creating an ideal environment for their development and emotional maturity. To continue to mature in relation, in confrontation with what is the masculinity and the femininity of a father and a mother, and thus equipping their emotional maturity.

At the same time, this entails supporting the right of parents in the moral and religious education of their children. And on this point, I would like to express my rejection of all types of educational experiments with children. One cannot experiment with children and young people. They are not laboratory guinea-pigs. The horrors of educational manipulation that we experienced in the great genocidal dictatorships of the 20th century have not disappeared; they keep their currency under different clothing that, with the pretension of modernity, force children and young people to walk on the dictatorial path of the “single thought.” A great educator said to me just over a week ago:“Sometimes one doesn’t know if with these projects – he was referring to concrete projects of education – you send a child to school or to a camp of re-education.

To work for human rights presupposes to keep alive anthropological formation, to be well prepared in the reality of the human person, and to be able to respond to the problems and challenges posed by contemporary cultures and the mentality spread by the means of social communication. Obviously, it is not about huddling up in protective shelters which today are incapable of giving life, which depend on cultures that are already passed. No, not that! That’s wrong! But it is to confront with the positive values of the human person the new challenges that the new cultures bring us. For you, it is about offering to your directors and employees a permanent formation in the anthropology of the child, because it is there where the rights and obligations have their foundation. On it depends the planning of educational projects, which obviously have to progress, have to mature, have to adapt to the signs of the times, always respecting human identity and liberty of conscience.

Thank you again. I wish you good work. There comes to mine the logo that the Commission for the Protection of Childhood and Adolescence had in Buenos Aires, which Norbert knows very well.Sometimes one has to escape to defend. Sometimes one has to stay and protect. Sometimes one has to fight, but one must always have tenderness.

Thank you for what you do!

[Original text: Spanish] [Translation by ZENIT]
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