This coming Sunday, almost 500 disadvantaged children will arrive at the Vatican on a special red train, where they will be greeted by Pope Francis as part of their “Journey of Beauty.”
The project focuses on children, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi explained, “because I think that therein lies the root from which we must build a generation of young persons who still have ... the beauty of creativity – that doesn't seem old at the start – who aren't already discouraged the way we are but who are ready to live more the future that awaits them.”
The “Children’s Train: A Journey of Beauty” was unveiled during a June 18 press conference at the Vatican’s press office by Cardinal Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and other organizers.
The children’s initiative was actually born out of a suggestion by a participant in the pontifical council’s event for creating dialogue between believing and non-believing adults, called the Courtyard of the Gentiles.
The Courtyard of the Children initiative first launched in December 2012, with the aim of giving young kids the chance to directly experience beauty through art and the world of images.
Patrizia Martinez, the coordinator of the Children’s Courtyard, said that it has been very well received by the kids, most of whom come from difficult circumstances.
“I am here to share the joy and enthusiasm of the children,” Martinez said.
In fact, this will be the first time that many of the kids have traveled on a train, let alone a red “Frecciarossa” bullet train.
The June 23 voyage to the Vatican will begin in Milan and stop in Bologna and Florence on the way to Rome.
In each city, disadvantaged children from the city who have been taking part in the Courtyard initiative will board the train, which is being made available by the Italian State Railway.
In total, 450 children of various nationalities and between the ages of six and 10-years-old will travel with their teachers, family members and volunteers to the Vatican.
Prior to the voyage, the children visited the cathedrals in their respective cities and discovered how it was built, learned about the artistic works within it and encountered its beauty.
The Courtyard has also been active at the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital in Rome, where the staff worked to expose the young patients to glimpses of beauty and the strength of cooperation.
The Children’s Train will arrive in Rome on Sunday morning and will pause at Saint Peter’s station, one stop before the Vatican train station.
Since the train is electric and there are no overhead electrical lines inside the Vatican, the train will be pulled the remaining half of a mile by a diesel locomotive.
The children will be welcomed to Rome by a band from the Virgilio Institute and 50 other kids who have prepared works of art for them.
The pinnacle of the event will be a gathering in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, where the children will be treated to an hour of entertainment and music and be visited by Pope Francis.
The Vatican press office director, Father Federico Lombardi, told reporters June 18 that he expects the Pope will meet with the group after he recites the noontime Angelus in St. Peter’s Square.