14 Let the children come to me, do not stop them, because the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.
13 "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
The Holy Father had a fascination for children and for the youth. He was like a magnet drawing them to talk to him and to feel wanted. He treated them as a father treats his children and they saw him as their father.
He delighted in the innocence of children because in them he saw the infant Jesus of whom he was a very close devotee. But he looked at them with a desire to protect them in a world where children are exploited and abused.
He saw a great potential in the new generation and he was very keen in instructing them to follow Christ
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APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO
The Rights of Children
26. In the family, which is a community of persons, special attention must be devoted to the children by developing a profound esteem for their personal dignity, and a great respect and generous concern for their rights. This is true for every child, but it becomes all the more urgent the smaller the child is and the more it is in need of everything, when it is sick, suffering or handicapped.
By fostering and exercising a tender and strong concern for every child that comes into this world, the Church fulfills a fundamental mission: for she is called upon to reveal and put forward anew in history the example and the commandment of Christ the Lord, who placed the child at the heart of the Kingdom of God: "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven."(75)
I repeat once again what I said to the General Assembly of the United Nations on October 2, 1979: "I wish to express the joy that we all find in children, the springtime of life, the anticipation of the future history of each of our present earthly homelands. No country on earth, no political system can think of its own future otherwise than through the image of these new generations that will receive from their parents the manifold heritage of values, duties and aspirations of the nation to which they belong and of the whole human family. Concern for the child, even before birth, from the first moment of conception and then throughout the years of infancy and youth, is the primary and fundamental test of the relationship of one human being to another. And so, what better wish can I express for every nation and for the whole of mankind, and for all the children of the world than a better future in which respect for human rights will become a complete reality throughout the third millennium, which is drawing near?"(76)
Acceptance, love, esteem, many-sided and united material, emotional, educational and spiritual concern for every child that comes into this world should always constitute a distinctive, essential characteristic of all Christians, in particular of the Christian family: thus children, while they are able to grow "in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man,"(77) offer their own precious contribution to building up the family community and even to the sanctification of their parents.(78)
LETTER OF THE popepapa JOHN PAUL II TO CHILDREN IN THE YEAR OF THE FAMILY Dear children,
Jesus is born
In a few days we shall celebrate Christmas, the holy day which is so full of meaning for all children in every family. This year it will be even more so, because this is the Year of the Family. Before the Year of the Family ends, I want to write to you, the children of the whole world, and to share with you in the joy of this happy time of year.
Christmas is the feast day of a Child, of a Newborn Baby. So it is your feast day too! You wait impatiently for it and get ready for it with joy, counting the days and even the hours to the Holy Night of Bethlehem.
I can almost see you: you are setting up the Crib at home, in the parish, in every corner of the world, recreating the surroundings and the atmosphere in which the Saviour was born. Yes, it is true! At Christmastime, the stable and the manger take centre place in the Church. And everyone hurries to go there, to make a spiritual pilgrimage, like the shepherds on the night of Jesus' birth. Later, it will be the Magi arriving from the distant East, following the star, to the place where the Redeemer of the universe lay.
You too, during the days of Christmas, visit the Cribs, stopping to look at the Child lying in the hay. You look at his Mother and you look at Saint Joseph, the Redeemer's guardian. As you look at the Holy Family, you think of your own family, the family in which you came into the world. You think of your mother, who gave you birth, and of your father. Both of them provide for the family and for your upbringing. For it is the parents' duty not only to have children but to bring them up from the moment of their birth.
Dear children, as I write to you I am thinking of when many years ago I was a child like you. I too used to experience the peaceful feelings of Christmas, and when the star of Bethlehem shone, I would hurry to the Crib together with the other boys and girls to relive what happened 2000 years ago in Palestine. We children expressed our joy mostly in song. How beautiful and moving are the Christmas carols which in the tradition of every people are sung around the Crib! What deep thoughts they contain, and above all what joy and tenderness they express about the Divine Child who came into the world that Holy Night!
The days which follow the birth of Jesus are also feast days: so eight days afterwards, according to the Old Testament tradition, the Child was given a name: he was called Jesus. After forty days, we commemorate his presentation in the Temple, like every other first-born son of Israel. On that occasion, an extraordinary meeting took place: Mary, when she arrived in the Temple with the Child, was met by the old man Simeon, who took the Baby Jesus in his arms and spoke these prophetic words: "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel" (Lk 2:29-32). Then, speaking to his Mother Mary, he added: "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed" (Lk 2:34-35). So already in the very first days of Jesus' life we heard the foretelling of the Passion, which will one day include his Mother Mary too: on Good Friday she will stand silently by the Cross of her Son. Also, not much time will pass after his birth before the Baby Jesus finds himself facing a grave danger: the cruel king Herod will order all the children under the age of two years to be killed, and for this reason Jesus will be forced to flee with his parents into Egypt.
You certainly know all about these events connected with the birth of Jesus. They are told to you by your parents, and by priests, teachers and catechists, and each year you relive them spiritually at Christmastime together with the whole Church. So you know about these dramatic aspects of Jesus' infancy.
Dear friends! In what happened to the Child of Bethlehem you can recognize what happens to children throughout the world. It is true that a child represents the joy not only of its parents but also the joy of the Church and the whole of society. But it is also true that in our days, unfortunately, many children in different parts of the world are suffering and being threatened: they are hungry and poor, they are dying from diseases and malnutrition, they are the victims of war, they are abandoned by their parents and condemned to remain without a home, without the warmth of a family of their own, they suffer many forms of violence and arrogance from grown-ups. How can we not care, when we see the suffering of so many children, especially when this suffering is in some way caused by grown-ups?
12TH WORLD YOUTH DAY MEETING WITH YOUTH
MEDITATION OF JOHN PAUL II6. By means of your apostolate you offer to your brothers and sisters the Gospel of love. Wherever witness by word is difficult or impossible in a world which does not accept it, by your attitude you make Christ the servant present, because your actions are in harmony with the teaching of the One whom you proclaim. This is an eminent form of professing the faith, a form practised with humility and perseverance by the saints. It is a way of showing that one can sacrifice everything for the truth of the Gospel and out of love for others, as Christ did. By conforming our lives to his, by living in love as he did, we acquire full freedom to respond to our vocation. That can sometimes call for the moral heroism which consists in committing ourselves courageously to following Christ, in the certainty that the Master will show us the way to happiness. It is only in the name of Christ that we can reach the extreme of love, in giving and selflessness.