Pope's Lenten Message focuses on children

 Pope John Paul II's Lenten Message for 2004, was made public yesterday. The theme is "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me". Extracts follow: "This year's theme - 'Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me' - invites us to reflect on the condition of children. . Jesus' words call upon us to see how children are treated in our families, in civil society, and in the Church." "Jesus had a particular love for children because of 'their simplicity, their joy of life, their spontaneity, and their faith filled with wonder'. For this reason He wishes the community to open its arms and its heart to them, even as He did: 'Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me'. Alongside children Jesus sets the 'very least of the brethren': the suffering, the needy, the hungry and thirsty, strangers, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned. In welcoming them and loving them, or in treating them with indifference and contempt, we show our attitude towards him, for it is in them that He is particularly present." "In the years of his public life Jesus often insisted that only those who become like children will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. .'Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven'. "'To become' one of the least and 'to receive' the little ones: these are two aspects of a single teaching which the Lord repeats to His disciples in our time. Only the one who makes himself one of the "least" is able to receive with love the "least" of our brothers and sisters. "Many believers strive faithfully to follow these teachings of the Lord. Here I would mention those parents who willingly take on the responsibility of a large family, mothers and fathers who, rather than considering success in their profession and career as the highest value, make every effort to pass on to their children those human and religious values that give true meaning to life. "With great admiration I also think of all those committed to caring for underprivileged children and those who alleviate the sufferings of children and their families resulting from war and violence, inadequate food and water, forced immigration and the many forms of injustice present in the world. "Together with such great generosity, however, a word must be said about the selfishness of those who do not 'receive' children. There are young people 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 evil have these children done to merit such suffering? From a human standpoint it is not easy, indeed it may be impossible, to answer this disturbing question. Only faith can make us begin to understand so profound an abyss of suffering." "Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us set out with trust on our Lenten journey, sustained by fervent prayer, penance and concern for those in need. In particular, may this Lent be a time of ever greater concern for the needs of children, in our own families and in society as a whole: for they are the future of humanity." Source: VIS

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