Letter for World Children’s Day 2024

World Children's Day 2024
From the Vatican, 6 February 2024

Letter for World Children’s Day 2024

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

the Holy Father surprised us last December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, when he announced the celebration of the first “World Children’s Day”, to be held in Rome on 25–26 May 2024. Indeed, surprises infuse us with untapped energies, throwing open unexpected horizons to the imagination. While we are constantly wonderstruck at the touching enchantment of children, we are also hurt by the cry of the little ones, who, in many parts of the world, suffer the senseless slaughter of war, hunger and thirst, the persistent wearing away brought about by the recent pandemic, the pain of the misunderstandings and the amputation of the future.

The memory of the happiness we felt last November 6 is very much alive, when, in the Paul vi Audience Hall, Pope Francis met thousands of 6–12 year old children, mainly from Italy, along with groups representing most of the four corners of the world. It was as if we were watching a fountainhead whose living spray was reinvigorating the earth and the Church with hope. Hence does the Holy Father desire that the children’s rendezvous with the Pope become, in effect, a moment to embrace the Church as a whole, at regular intervals.

His Holiness has charged the Dicastery for Culture and Education with the organisation of the first World Children’s Day, at the same time, entrusting the coordination of the event to Father Enzo Fortunato, making the best use of all such collaborations and contributions as may be deemed necessary. Of course, being a new event, prepared at short notice, the first wcd might look more like a dress rehearsal for a concert rather than the concert itself, more like a seed rather than the tree. It shall be a Day of a two-fold celebration: universal, based in Rome, where hopefully national delegations will also come together; and diocesan, the organising being left to the creativity of each local Church.

Why is it that the Pope seeks to meet with little boys and little girls? To announce unto them the joy of the Gospel. It’s the children’s right to meet Christ! All of Christ. The Christ who raises a little girl, asking her parents to give her something to eat (Mk. 5: 21–43); who recalls a little boy from the dead, restoring him to his mother (Lk. 7: 11–17). The Christ who puts the child at the centre, pointing him out to the grown-ups as the criterion to enter the Kingdom (Mk. 9: 33–37). The same Christ who also says to the children: ‘Arise and walk’ (Mk. 2: 9–12), ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden’ (Mt. 11: 28), ‘Thy sins be forgiven thee’ (Mt. 9: 2), ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’ (Jn. 14: 6). The Christ who speaks, also to the children, of the necessity to go through the narrow door and to carry the cross, in his footsteps, every day (Mt. 7: 13–14; Lk. 9: 23).

The Pope wishes to see the children in order to listen to the Gospel that’s brimming in them, in this their early season of life. One of the most extraordinary characteristics of children is their disruptive newness. Their very birth is an event: the arrival of a new life, a new person, a new presence so intense as to renew the identity of the persons surrounding it. At its arrival, a man and a woman become “daddy” and “mommy”, “grandpa” and “granny”, “brother” and “sister”. Children are the most vivid and beautiful comment—writ in flesh and blood and in spirit—to the verse of the Book of Revelation where Christ says of himself: ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (Rev. 21: 5). To be sure, it’s the Word of God, in full majesty, who pronounces those words; and yet, that breathtaking mystery was ‘made flesh’ in the concrete novelty ushered in and unveiled by the Child born in Bethlehem and brought up in Nazareth.
Hence has the Holy Father chosen as the theme of the first World Children’s Day those very words of Jesus: ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (Rev. 21: 5). It is an invitation to become like children, swift to seize the novelties inspired by the Spirit of Christ in every man and woman, in history and in the Church.

We, therefore, commend the participation of as many children as possible, whether at the universal or the diocesan level; let those that are better off and those that enjoy good health not deprive themselves of the richness that only the poorer and the weaker children can bring!

José Tolentino Cardinal de Mendonça