05/25/2024, 14.34
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Vicar of Arabia: praying with Pope Francis for children’s peace and happiness

The first World Children's Day is being celebrated over the weekend, at the initiative of the Holy Father. Bishop Martinelli met with a group of children, answering their questions, and inviting them to put "their joy, their enthusiasm" at the service of the Church. About a hundred young people met in Hong Kong to share experiences and expectations.

Dubai (AsiaNews) – Bishop Paolo Martinelli, Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia,[*] issued a message for the first World Children's Day taking place this weekend in Rome.

This “is something completely new”, a “marvellous initiative” and a “beautiful idea” from Pope Francis to make us feel “united with all the children around the world.”

“With this celebration, we want, first of all, to celebrate all the children of the world, and thank God for the gift of their life,” the prelate says in a statement sent to AsiaNews.

“We want to pray and work so that all children can have a peaceful childhood, where they can study and play in peace”, including those who live "in areas where there is no peace", for whom he urges the faithful to pray that they may "live happily”.

“With this celebration, the Pope wants to remind everyone that we are children. We are always children, sons and daughters. To exist is to be wanted and loved. It is sad if we forget this when we grow up and become adults. We must never forget that to be adults, to be dads and mums, we must never stop being children in our hearts, certain of being loved.”

At the end of his message, the prelate cites the theme of the day, Behold, I Make All Things New, stressing that children “are a continuous novelty and help us to renew the world every day with the love of God.”

The first World Children's Day began today and will end tomorrow, in Rome, on the initiative of Pope Francis who wants children to be at the centre of things following the example of Jesus, “because the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like children,” the pontiff said.

The celebration will be held in Rome’s Olympic Stadium and St Peter's Square, organised under the patronage of the Dicastery for Culture and Education, led by Card José Tolentino de Mendonça.

Today’s kick-off will see tens of thousands of children (including from war zones like Gaza, Ukraine, and Syria) meet the pope in the stadium, for sporting activities – including a match between children and international footballers – as well as moments of spirituality.

Tomorrow, Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, people will meet in St Peter's Square for the Mass celebrated by Francis, followed by a monologue by Roberto Benigni after the Regina Coeli.

For this day, the Vicariate of Southern Arabia undertook a series of initiatives, including videos (in English and Arabic) and a meeting with children of migrant workers who are the bulk of the local Catholic community.

Bishop Martinelli engaged in a Question & Answer session (see video) on various topics, from faith to daily life. “I think you are very important for us as kids, because you are the future, you are the hope for the humanity. When we look at you, we are happy,” he said.

He remembered how he was "nervous" when he arrived at the vicariate two years ago, but now feels “much better," also because thanks to the office of bishop "I am never alone. I am always with the people, the children. I am very happy when I can speak to them."

“We can always learn a lot of things from children,” the prelate said. “First of all, to remain children in our hearts. What does it mean to be a child? It means we are loved; we are without distinction, we are welcomed. So, we feel we are willed, we are not on Earth by chance, but we are chosen and loved by God forever.”

Asked about his memories as a child, he replied that the "best" was “when I started to pray with my parents and siblings at the end of every day before sleeping.”

“We need children to be children. With their joy, their enthusiasm in the life of the Church,” he said when asked how children can serve the Church.

Activities associated with World Children’s Day also took place in other Churches in Asia, including the Diocese of Hong Kong, which brought together on 18 May about a hundred children from different schools and parishes at the Church of St Thomas the Apostle Tsing Yi.

This initiative was organised by the Diocesan Vocation Commission, the Diocesan Youth Commission, the Diocesan Catechetical Centre, the Central Council of Catholic Laity of Hong Kong, and Home for Greenery, a lay group for children from marginalised families.

The children were divided into 14 groups to talk about their ideal school, parish, and family under the guidance of teachers and catechists in a 40-minute discussion, and then present their views on stage to the Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing.

One of those who spoke was 12-year-old Marcus Kwong, a pupil at Yaumati Catholic Primary School (Hoi Wang Road), who said he hoped parishes would organise more pilgrimages abroad to encourage greater participation and provide confessions in more private spaces in the parish.

Gabriella Tang, an 11-year-old delegate representing Hong Kong in Rome for World Children's Day, shared her hopes for family harmony.

[*] United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen.

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