Vatican City (Fides Service) – “It is beautiful to think of the Pontifical Society for Missionary Childhood as an immense choir of children all over the world, singing together their “Here I am Lord”, with prayers, enthusiasm and concrete commitment” . Pope John Paul II said this on Saturday 14 June when he addressed some 7,000 Italian children members of the Pontifical Society for Missionary Childhood, who had some with their assistants and catechists from dioceses all over Italy to celebrate with the Successor of Peter the 160th anniversary of the founding of the Society and to renew their personal missionary commitment. The children were accompanied by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, who had presided a special Mass for the children before the audience with the Pope. With him also Secretary General of the Pontifical Society for Missionary Childhood, Rev. Father Patrick Byrne, SVD and the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Italy. Mgr Giuseppe Andreozzi.
“In your hearts and on your lips God places one four little words “Here I am Lord” – the Pope said in his address. These words were said by the Son of God when he came into the world and his life was one continuing response of readiness “Here I am Lord” to the Heavenly Father. “Here I am” was the reply given by the Blessed Virgin Mary to the Angel who announced to her God’s message. With these words Our Lady accepted readily the mission to become the Mother of Jesus and therefore the Mother of the Church. You too, dear little missionaries, must learn to say “Here I am Lord” invoking the help of Jesus and Mary”.
For 160 years the motto of Missionary Childhood has been: “children helping children”, help offered first of all through prayer and also with personal savings. “Certainly, great and profound changes have come about in humanity since the mid 19th century – the Holy Father underlined -. In the so-called North of the world living conditions of children have improved, but economic and social development have not always been accompanied by a fully human development. We have seen a loss of values for which the little ones have paid the highest price, not to mention that even in developed countries there remain areas of dire poverty. In the South of the planet, the cries of millions of children condemned to starve due to hunger and poverty related diseases, are ever more heartbreaking and they challenge everyone” . The Pope recalled that Missionary Childhood children are the first to respond to the call of their peers, forming in this way “a chain of solidarity across the five continents” and he encouraged the children to be “witnesses and prophets of Christ” asking for help from Our Lady particularly with the Rosary prayer. SL (Fides Service 16/6/2003 EM lines 31 Words: 449)