Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - "Children are our present rather than the future: it is in our care to make them experience the joy, prayer and sharing even in difficulties. And with a truly universal spirit: I would like to remind you that, during the earthquake in central Italy, children in the Central African Republic, a very poor country, gave up a meal to help their peers affected": says Sister Roberta Tremarelli to Agenzia Fides, Secretary General of the Pontifical Missionary Childhood Society - one of the four Pontifical Mission Societies - on the eve of 6 January, solemnity of the Epiphany, where in many countries of the world special Missionary Childhood Day or Missionary Day of Children is celebrated.
The religious explains to Fides: "Missionary Childhood Day is born with the purpose of having a specific day during the year in which children in all the countries of the world are involved in a special way. It is celebrated in different periods and forms, according to the calendar and the contexts, with the aim of educating them to the missionary spirit of attention towards other children, through prayer, offerings and sharing".
It was Pope Pius XI who urged the institution of this Day precisely to give greater attention to the Pontifical Missionary Childhood Society: "The Society is based on the example of Christ who put children at the center and seeks to take care of children so they learn from their tender age to share", explains Sister Tremarelli. Holy Childhood (as it is called) began in the mid-1800s by French Bishop Toussaint de Forbin-Janson who, says the Secretary General, "in order to face the tragic condition of the children of China, began to sensitize children in France, asking them for a prayer a day and a penny a month. It was something new. For centuries the child remained only the recipient of attentions; now he/she becomes subject, he/she who can give a contribution in first person. In this way we educate them to the missionary spirit, to be attentive to the needs of others".
Sister Roberta recalls that "today in many parts of the world, childhood is violated, abused, exploited. The Pontifical Missionary Childhood Society receives requests for aid and subsidies from all over the world, most of them for school education. In fact, especially in Africa, schools are few or far from human settlements and children have to travel many miles a day to attend them". In addition to the crucial field of education, the Society intervenes in areas such as the protection of life (health care, nutrition, reception) and Christian education: "All to restore dignity to the lives of children", she observes.
Missionary Childhood Society was founded in 1843 by Mgr. Toussaint de Forbin-Janson, Bishop of Nancy, to educate children to the missionary spirit, interested in the needs of their peers in mission countries, with the offering of prayers and material aid. The 175 years of its foundation takes place in 2018. According to the latest data provided to Fides, the Missionary Childhood Society granted subsidies to 2,621 projects, in the five continents, for a total of 15.6 million dollars in 2016. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 5/1/2018)