Pope focuses Wednesday audience on children, especially those killed in Russia

.- Pope John Paul II invited the crowd gathered at this morning’s general audience in the Paul VI Hall, on the feast of the birth of the Virgin Mary, to remember children, especially "the many children in Beslan, North Ossetia, victims of a barbaric siege, who were tragically massacred."

The Holy Father recalled that the children in Beslan were at school, "a place where values are taught, which give meaning to the history, culture and civilizations of peoples: mutual respect, solidarity, justice and peace.”

“Inside those walls, however, they experienced abuse, hatred and death, the evil consequences of a cruel fanaticism and a disordered contempt of the human person," he said.

“In these moments our thoughts go to the innocent children who are victims of the violence of adults all over the world. Children forced to take up arms and taught to hate and to kill; children constrained to beg on the streets, exploited in order to make easy money, children mistreated and humiliated by the power and abuses of adults; children left on their own, deprived of the warmth of family life and a perspective of the future; children who die of hunger, children killed in so many conflicts in various parts of the world," said the Pope.

"It is a great cry of sorrow for childhood, offended in its dignity. This cannot, must not leave anyone indifferent,” said the Pope.

“At the cradle of the child Mary,” he continued, “let us remember once again the duty we all have to support and defend these fragile creatures and to build a  peaceful future for all. Let us pray together," he concluded, "so that we may achieve the conditions for a serene and safe existence."

At the end of the catechesis, those gathered prayed for the children in Beslan, for the parents and friends killed with them in the school,  "that God may embrace them in His mercy." They also prayed for all those held hostage in Iraq, in particular for the two young Italian volunteers, taken captive yesterday in Baghdad, "so that they are treated with respect and returned unharmed to their loved ones as soon as possible."

The faithful present during the audience were also invited to pray for justice and peace in the world, "so that the Lord may illuminate the minds of those who are subject to the evil temptation of violence and that He may open the hearts of all people to dialogue and reconciliation in order to build a future of hope and peace."

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