Some 6,000 children aged 7 to 12 from 56 countries, especially from troubled regions of the world, will meet Pope Francis in Rome on the afternoon of November 6, 2023. The Pope himself announced the event, dedicated to promoting peace and stewardship, on October 1. Details were released by the Holy See Press Office on October 17.
Learning from children
“Dear children, I too look forward to learning from all of you!” said the head of the Catholic Church after praying the Sunday Angelus in St Peter’s Square on October 1. This meeting, added the Pontiff — who will soon be 87 — will be dedicated to a return “to having the pure sentiments of children” and to learn “transparency in relationships, about spontaneously welcoming those who are strangers, and about respect for all of creation.”
The initiative is organized by the Dicastery for Culture and Education, presided over by Portuguese Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça. The theme will be “Let us learn from boys and girls.” Several communities are involved — including the Franciscans and the Community Sant’Egidio — to bring children from all over the world to the Vatican. Among the participants will be the children of immigrants and child refugees arriving via humanitarian corridors.
The Trenitalia fleet was called upon to transport 4,500 children and their carers by bus and train. Among the trains mobilized, one will arrive at the Vatican Gardens at St. Peter’s station, carrying 600 children.
The program for the event, dedicated to peace
At midday, groups will gather in St. Peter’s Basilica for a catechesis and prayer at St. Peter’s tomb. The children will then proceed to the large Paul VI Hall, where the meeting with the Pope is scheduled for 3:30pm. In addition to a youth “peace orchestra,” groups of children from Vietnam, Australia, Brazil, Italy, and Benin will express their hopes to the Pope and the assembly. After a question-and-answer session, the Bishop of Rome will conclude by presenting his guests with a world map.
With the expected presence of Israeli and Palestinian children, the theme of this meeting will be significantly dedicated to peace. In a room adjacent to Paul VI Hall, there will be an exhibition symbolizing the voices of children from Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mozambique, protesting against war.
A book written with the participation of Italian writer and airplane pilot Aldo Cagnoli, inspired by the environmental encyclical Laudato si’, will also be one of the meeting’s materials.