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Pope’s Address to Symposium on Pastoral Ministry for People ‘of the Street’

“The children and women of the street are not numbers; they are not ‘parcels’ to exchange: they are human beings with their own names and their own faces, with an identity given by God to each one of them. They are children of God like us, the same as us, with the same rights we have”

Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave today when he received in audience participants in an international symposium on caring for people who live and/or work “on the street.” The five-day symposium was organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Travellers and concluded today.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

I give you all my cordial welcome at the end of the International Symposium on the Pastoral Care of the Street, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. I thank Cardinal Veglio for his courteous words, and I thank him and his collaborators especially for their work in this pastoral area.

The purpose of these days of study and reflection is to prepare a plan of action in response to the phenomenon of children and women  — and of their families – who have the street as their main environment. I have a great esteem for your tutelary commitment to promote the dignity of these children and these women; therefore, I encourage you to go forward with confidence and apostolic impetus. The realities you meet, which at times are very sad, are caused by indifference, by poverty, by family and social violence, and by the traffic of human persons. Not lacking, moreover, is the pain of conjugal separations and the birth of children outside of marriage, often destined to a “stray” life. The children and women of the street are not numbers; they are not “parcels” to exchange: they are human beings with their own names and their own faces, with an identity given by God to each one of them. They are children of God like us, the same as us, with the same rights we have.

No child chooses to live on the street. Unfortunately, also in the modern and globalized world, many children are robbed of their childhood, of their rights, of their future. The lack of laws and of adequate structures contributes to aggravate their state of privation: they lack a real family; they lack education and health care. Every abandoned child or child constrained to live on the street — becoming prey of criminal organizations — is a cry that goes up to God, who has created man and woman in His image; it is a cry of accusation against a social system that we have criticized for decades but which we find difficult to change according to criteria of justice.

It is worrying to see the increase in the number of young girls and women that are constrained to earn their living on the street, selling their own body, exploited by criminal organizations and sometimes by relatives and family members. Such a reality is a disgrace of our societies that boast of being modern and of having attained high levels of culture and development. The widespread corruption and the quest for earnings at all cost deprive the innocent and the weakest of the possibility of a worthy life, fuelling the criminality of trafficking and of other injustices that weigh on their shoulders. No one can remain inert in face of the urgent need to safeguard the dignity of woman, menaced by cultural and economic factors!

I ask you, please, not to give up in face of the difficulty of the challenges that challenge your conviction, nourished by faith in Christ, who has demonstrated, to the point of death on the cross, the preferential love of God the Father for the weakest and marginalized. The Church cannot be silent; the ecclesiastical institutions cannot close their eyes in face of the ill-fated phenomenon of the children and women of the street. It is important to involve the different expressions of the Christian community in various countries in order to remove the causes that constrain a child or a woman to live on the street or to procure to live on the street. We can never avoid taking to all, particularly to the weakest and most disadvantaged, the goodness and tenderness of the merciful God the Father. Mercy is the supreme act with which God comes to encounter us; it is the way that opens the heart to the hope of being loved forever.

Dear brothers and sisters, I wish you a fruitful mission in your countries for the pastoral and spiritual care and for the liberation of the most fragile and exploited; a fecund mission for the promotion and safeguarding of their identity and dignity. I entrust you and your service to Mary, Mother of Mercy: may the sweetness of her gaze support the conviction and the intentions of all those who take care of the children and women of the street. And I invoke from my heart upon each one of you the blessing of the Lord.

And now I invite you to pray to Our Lady and to ask her to caress these children who live on the street, these women …. suffer so much. The caress of Our Lady: we are in need of maternity. Let us pray to Our Lady. [Hail Mary] [Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

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