Pope Francis appealed for better treatment of child refugees and migrants during his Angelus address on Sunday. Speaking to pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square, the Holy Father renewed his call for prayerful and concrete solidarity with minors forced to flee their homelands - especially for the children and adolescents forced to flee on their own, without the company of parents or older relatives.
"It is necessary to take every possible measure to ensure protection and defence for migrant children," Pope Francis said, "as well as their integration," into host societies. "These, our brothers and sisters, especially if unaccompanied, are exposed to many dangers," the Pope said - dangers that include being taken and sold into slavery - often sexual slavery.
Pope Francis offered special greetings to representatives of the many different ethnic communities present in the city and in St Peter's Square for the occasion. "Dear friends, I hope that you are able to live peacefully in the places that welcome you," the Holy Father said, "respecting their laws and traditions and, at the same time, maintaining the values of your cultures of origin." The Pope went on to say, "The encounter of different cultures is always an enrichment for everyone."
Offering thanks to the Migrantes office of the Diocese of Rome and those who work with migrants to welcome them and accompany them in their difficulties, and encouraging everyone so committed to continue in their work, Pope Francis commended the example of St Frances Xavier Cabrini, the patron saint of migrants, who died 100 years ago this year. "This courageous sister dedicated her life to bringing the love of Christ to those who were far from home and family," he said, "Her witness," said Pope Francis, "helps us to take care of the brother from a far-off land, in whom Jesus is present, often suffering, rejected and humiliated."
Pope Francis' recent Twitter messages have also focussed on child migrants.
01/15/2017 - May the Holy Family watch over all child migrants and accompany the vulnerable and the voiceless on their journey.
01/14/2017 - Unscrupulous exploitation harms young girls and boys who are trafficked and enslaved. May God bless all those who set them free.
01/13/2017 - Children forced to flee, especially if fleeing alone, are most defenceless and vulnerable. Let's pray for them and help them.
01/12/2017 - Young migrants, especially when unaccompanied, are especially defenceless. Let everyone offer them a helping hand.