VATICAN CITY, FEB. 25, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The favored beneficiaries of Catholics’ self-denial and charity this Lent should be children, says John Paul II, reiterating a desire he made known in a recent message.
His Message for Lent, presented in late January, had as its theme the words of Jesus, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.”
Today, in his homily for Ash Wednesday, delivered in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Holy Father wished “to draw attention, in particular, to the difficult conditions in which so many children of the world find themselves.”
In this connection, the Holy See will fund the establishment of “Nyumbani Village,” near Nairobi, Kenya, where some 1,000 people will live, the majority children with AIDS.
“Who, indeed, more than a helpless and fragile child has need to be defended and protected?” the Pope asked in the homily at the ceremony which included the imposition of ashes.
“The problems that assail the world of children are many and complex,” he said. “I very much hope that to those smallest brothers of ours, often abandoned to themselves, will be given the care that is due to them thanks also to our solidarity. It is a concrete way to translate our Lenten effort.”
The Pope’s Lenten message, presented Jan. 29, was a severe condemnation of the situation.
“There are young people,” he wrote, “who have been profoundly hurt by the violence of adults: 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 and its devastating consequences in Africa? It is said that millions of persons are now afflicted by this scourge, many of whom were infected from birth,” he stated. “Humanity cannot close its eyes in the face of so appalling a tragedy!”
The Nyumbani Village project was presented together with the Lenten message by Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” an organization that coordinates the Church’s aid institutions worldwide.
At that press conference, the archbishop renewed the Holy See’s appeal to large pharmaceutical firms to lower their prices in developing countries, especially medication for AIDS sufferers.
“The suffering of children who are dying because they have no medicines could be avoided,” Archbishop Cordes said on that occasion.