Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address during his weekly General Audience on 8 Apr in St Peter’s Square:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
We complete today, in the catecheses on the family, the reflection on children, who are the most beautiful fruit of the blessing that the Creator has given man and woman. We have already talked about the great gift that children are; today, unfortunately, we must talk about the “stories of passion” that many of them live.
So many children are rejected from the beginning, abandoned, robbed of their childhood and their future. Some might dare to say, almost to justify themselves, that it was an error to make them come into the world. This is disgraceful! Please, let’s not unload our faults on children! Children are never “an error”. Their hunger isn’t an error, as their poverty isn’t, their fragility, their abandonment — so many are abandoned on the streets; nor is it their ignorance or their incapacity — there are so many children who don’t know what a school is. If anything, these are reasons to love them more, with greater generosity. What are we doing in our solemn declarations of the rights of man and the rights of children, if we then punish children for the errors of adults?
Those who have the task to govern, educate — however I’d say all of us adults are responsible for children and for each of us to do what he/she can to change this situation. I am referring to the “passion” of children. Every marginalized, abandoned child who lives on the street begging and with all sorts of devices, without school, without medical care, is a cry that goes up to God and that accuses the system that we adults have built. And, unfortunately, these children are prey to criminals, who exploit them for unworthy traffic or commerce, or to train them for war and violence. However, in so-called rich countries so many children also live dramas that marked them in a heavy way, because of the crisis of the family, of education voids and of conditions of life that at times are inhuman. In every case they are children violated in body and soul. However, the Father who is in heaven does not forget a single one of these children! Not one of their tears is lost! Nor is our responsibility lost either, the social responsibility of persons, of each one of us, and of countries.
Once Jesus rebuked his disciples because they were sending the children away that the parents were bringing to him, to have him bless them. The Gospel narrative is moving: “Then the children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said: ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’ And he laid his hands on them and went away” (Matthew 19:13-15). How lovely was this trust of the parents, and Jesus’ answer! How I would like this page to become the normal story of all children! It’s true that, thanks be to God, children with serious difficulties very often have extraordinary parents, ready for any sacrifice and every generosity. However, these parents should not be left alone! We must support their effort, but also offer them moments of shared joy and carefree happiness, so that they are not prey only to the therapeutic routine.
In any case, when it is a question of children, we should not hear those formulas of office legal defense such as: “after all, we are not a welfare entity”; or “In privacy, each one is free to do what he wishes”; or also “we don’t like it, we can’t do anything.” These words are not right when it is a question of children.
Too often the effects of a life strained by precarious or badly paid work, of unsustainable hours, of inefficient transport, fall on children … But children also pay the price of immature unions and irresponsible separations: they are the first victims; they suffer the successes of the culture of exasperating subjective rights, and they then become the most precocious children. Often they absorb violence that they are unable to “digest,” and under the eyes of the grownups they are constrained to be inured to degradation.
In our time also, as in the past, the Church puts her maternity at the service of children and of their families. She brings to the parents and children of this our world God’s blessing, maternal tenderness, firm rebuke and decisive condemnation. One doesn’t joke with children!
Think what a society would be like that decided once and for all to establish this principle: “It’s true that we aren’t perfect and that we make many mistakes. However, when it is a question of children who come into the world, no sacrifice of the adults is deemed too costly or to great, in order to avoid a child thinking that he is a mistake, that he had no value and that he is abandoned to the wounds of life and to the arrogance of men.” How beautiful such a society would be! I say that much would be forgiven such a society, its innumerable errors — much, truly.
The Lord judges our life by listening to what the angels tell him about the children, angels that “always behold the face of the Father who is in heaven” (Cf. Matthew 18:10). We must ask ourselves always: What will the children’s angels tell God about us?