Vatican hosts conference on protecting children from diseases


Helping children in danger from disease and exploitation was the focus of a press conference held by Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan and other clergy at the Vatican’s press office this morning. The aim of the upcoming conference will be to examine what the Scriptures say about helping children and to seek ways to apply these teachings.

This year’s international conference being held by the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care has as its theme: "Pastoral Care in the Treatment of Sick Children,” and will be held at the Vatican from November 13 to 15.

Speaking to the press on Tuesday morning, Cardinal Lozano Barragan began his remarks by highlighting the desperate situation of many children around the world with some statistics. The cardinal asserted that "in the last decade more than two million children have been killed in the course of armed conflict, six million have been left handicapped, tens of thousands mutilated by antipersonnel mines and 300,000 recruited as child soldiers. More than 4,300,000 children have died of AIDS.”

While Cardinal Lozano Barragan cited poverty as the “principal cause of childhood sickness,” he also underscored the fact that, “Two hundred and fifty million children under 15 work” and that many children and adolescents are “left to their own devices” when they view television programs or search the Internet.

“There are no controls on television programs or on the Internet where they navigate without any kind of moral guidance. The sex trade, pedophilia, violence in schools, crimes, organized bands, etc., are all growing phenomena. ... Many families have relinquished their duty to educate" their children and "very often school education is reduced to mere information, with authentic formation being abandoned," he lamented.

The international conference will address how to help children by a three step analysis of the situation. The first part of the examination will look at “the reality and origin of childhood diseases,” according to the cardinal.

In the second part of the conference, entitled "Reflection,” participants will analyze "what Holy Scripture and the Fathers of the Church have to tell us about the cure of children, examining what those cures were over the course of Church history and the witness of the saints who consecrated their lives to caring for sick children. ... We will conclude our reflection with a dialogue on the great religions: Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism," said the cardinal.

"The third part of the conference is dedicated to 'Action'," Cardinal Lozano Barragan went on. "What kind of catechesis and formation in the faith do we need in order to face this serious problem? How must we proceed in sacramental terms towards these children? How can we use the psychological sciences in this form of treatment? ... At a personal level, we will ask ourselves about the role of the diocese, of the parish, of religious orders and congregations, and of volunteers."

The cardinal concluded by recalling that the conference will be attended "by 41 specialists from various countries, all of them highly qualified in their specific fields." 

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