.- Pope John Paul II released today his Lenten Message for 2004 entitled “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,” inviting Catholics to reflect on how children are treated “in our families, in civil society, and in the Church.”
In his message, presented at the Vatican by Archbishop Paul Joseph Cordes, President of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, the Holy Father recalls that 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,” he adds.
“Alongside children –the Pope continues- 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,” the message says. “‘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,” the Pope stresses.
Large Families The Pontiff praised the “many believers” who strive to follow these teachings, among them, “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.”
After praising those “committed to caring for underprivileged children,” the Holy Father said a word “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,” he listed
“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,” the Pope concludes.
Read here the Pope’s Lenten Message 2004: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=24