.- The first International Meeting on Pastoral Care for Street Children was inaugurated yesterday in the Vatican by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, and brought together participants from various continents to reflect on the plight of street children around the world.
The objective of the two-day meeting, which ended today, was to find a general pastoral answer to the problems faced by street children and, according to Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao – president of the council - “to give visibility to all the private and institutional efforts, associations and non-governmental organizations, to the volunteers and groups committed to helping each and every marginalized child."
Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, council secretary, noted that there are 100,000,000 children, according to Amnesty International and 150,000,000 children, according to the World Labor Organization, who live on the street in cities in the southern hemisphere.
He said that the children - 45 million in Latin America, 10 million in Africa and 40 million in Asia - "are victims of family break-ups, of sprawling urbanization, migration and the numerous wars of our times."
Archbishop Marchetto said that "street children arrive in the arms of this 'step mother,' the street, with the momentary illusion of finding an 'island' of salvation which does not exist, in the hopes of finding freedom and strong emotions, with the use of alcohol, drugs, and crime."
He noted that it is important to understand the reasons why children end up on the streets in the hope of finding a solution to their problems. He pointed to "destabilizing family elements (death, divorce, second marriages, conflicts, tension) and the factors of the disintegration of street children with the family."
Archbishop Marchetto also pointed to the embracing of a child or groups of children in an educative, formative and social dimension as a possible response, and emphasized the need to break down barriers between children and their parents, in order that they can live at home and pursue their education.