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THE POPE IN BRAZIL: Address to the children of Brazil

October 20, 1991

Improve the lot of children


Pope pleads for an end to exploitation of minors

On Sunday, 20 October, the Holy Father had an emotional meeting with representatives of Brazil's children in Salvador. The Pope spoke to the children, including many of Brazil's street children, about his love for them and his distress at seeing their plight. He encouraged their parents to follow the Church's Magisterium especially in regard to the sanctity of marriage and the need to be open to new life. The Pope also announced that the money he had received when he was awarded the "Peacemaker Prize" was being dedicated wholly to programmes in support of Brazil's children. This is a translation of the Pope's address.

My dear Children,

1. How many times in my life I have read and heard the words of our Lord who said, "unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 18:3) and that "whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea" (Mt 18:6). When they tried to keep the children away from him, he cried out: "Let the children come to me" (Mt 19:14).

That is why I, who am an unworthy disciple of Jesus and act in his place in the Church, was very happy when I learned that the Brazilian children wanted to meet me. I said: "Let the children come to the Pope!"

I am even happier due to the fact that it is you, the children of Bahia, who are meeting me in the name of all Brazilian children. Therefore I say to you: "Good morning, children of Bahia! Good morning, children of Brazil!"

2. First of all, I want to tell you that you are very important to the Pope. You are important because here in Brazil there are so many of you, and you are such a large part of the population. Did you know that? You are important because you are the future of Brazil, the future of the Nation; you are important because you are also the future of the Church. Did you know that? You must become more and more aware of it.

What is beautiful about you is that each one looks at the other children and offers a hand with no regard for colour, social condition or religion. You offer your hand to one another. If only the adults would do as you do and be done with all their discrimination. That is the only way the world will find peace. Do you want peace in the world? Do you want a world in peace?

In order to be truly important, you need a family, united parents, an atmosphere of love and peace. The children who are born and grow up without a true family need help. But it is also necessary to do something so that all children will have their rights respected, their right to have united parents, brothers and sisters who love one another, a harmonious, happy home. If you want this, raise your right hand.

In order to be important, you need a school where everyone, without exception, can learn to read and write, to count and do everything that is necessary for growth. You children who are already in school, do you want to apply yourselves and be studious in order to learn a lot? Do you want the others who do not go to school to have good schools to learn in?

In order to be important you need to know Jesus Christ, you need to love him as your best friend, pray to him always, every day. If you want this, now raise your left hand. You must also learn your catechism at home, in school and in church, prepare yourselves for First Communion and Confirmation. If you want this, raise both hands!

If being a child is so important, then all children are important. All children are important. All of them! There cannot and must not be abandoned children, nor children without families, nor street children. There cannot and must not be children used by adults for immoral purposes, for drug trafficking, for petty and large crimes, for practicing vices. There cannot and must not be children in reformatories and correctional institutions where they do not have a true upbringing. There cannot and must not be - and it is the Pope who asks this and demands it in the name of God and his Son, Jesus, who was once a child - there cannot and must not be children who are assassinated, eliminated under the pretext of crime prevention, marked for death. Do you want all children to be happy? Do you want a city, a State, a Country without abandoned children or street children?

3. I now address the adults present with their children, or who are listening to my words, from these highlands of Bonfim all the way to Bahia and throughout Brazil. I believe I speak in the children's name, and as their delegate.

First of all, let me express to Brazilian society my joy and satisfaction for two events. First of all, there was the creation of the Ministry for Children. I hope that this department may have the necessary creativity and skill and the indispensable means to solve all the problems which afflict Brazil's children. I express my joy and compliment you, next, for the recent promulgation of the Statutes of the Child and Adolescent. With great interest I was able to follow its development. I rejoice in learning that the Statutes are already in effect, since they have been approved by both houses of the National Congress and, therefore, by almost all the Brazilian people. It is not a cure-all, nor does it claim to solve all the problems. We must, however, have trust and think that, despite its inevitable limitations, it can help to develop an adequate social policy on behalf of children and adolescents. I hope that at all levels of the Brazilian community this can evoke effective initiatives to resolve these problems.

In the ecclesiastical field, I joyfully note the dynamism with which a great number of dioceses throughout the country are developing a ministry to children and minors. In fact, the words spoken just a while ago by Sr. Maria do Rosário of the Secretariat for the Ministry to Minors, whom I thank very much, reveal dynamism at this time. Distinct in their immediate objectives and methods, these two apostolates are of necessity linked to one another because of the service they offer. I am pleased to note the recent creation, first in Brasília and now in Salvador, of the Pro-Life Movement, for which I hope and pray for the divine blessing that it may be a valuable, effective tool to help lessen the scourge of abortion, and to promote and defend life from conception in the mother's womb until its natural end, welcoming the unborn and the mothers in difficulty, and offering a better quality of life to the babies who are born.

4. I now want to invite everyone, each person within his own human, religious, professional and political environment, to ensure some factors which are capable of changing the tragic situation of millions of marginalized Brazilian children.

The first factor is a good quality basic education which is directed towards the children beginning in their pre-school years. The education of women in the areas where it is lacking, so that they can competently carry out their irreplaceable mission within the family and community.

Secondly, responsible parenthood, an ideal forcefully preached by my predecessor, Paul VI, which excludes artificial contraceptive methods, which do not respect the dignity of the person and the couple. Therefore, among the initiatives promoting a normal, balanced population growth, the public authorities do not have the right to encourage abortion, mass sterilization, or the indiscriminate propaganda of artificial methods of birth control. Family-planning following natural methods contributes to the education and maturation of the couples, especially in the poorer areas. The demands of responsible parenthood must have effective legal support. The unborn child not only has the right to be born, but also to be born as the result of responsible love, and not of an adventure - to experience affection, dedication and protection within a well-structured family.

5. In the name of Christ, our Lord and Master, I ask everyone to work on behalf of the children!

Excuse me, children! I had to say a few things to the adults, but now I will talk to you again. If you did not understand what I said to the adults, it does not matter. The important thing is that they understand! I want to tell you something very serious, truly very serious: the Pope loves the children of Brazil with all his heart!

To show you how much the Pope loves the children of Brazil, I shall tell you a secret. Some months ago I received a sum of money when the "Peacemaker Award" was given to me. At that time I decided to allocate this whole sum to Brazil's abandoned children, turning it over to your beloved Archbishop, Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves, so that it can contribute to initiatives on behalf of the neediest children. I do so with all my heart because, following Jesus' example, I say to you once again: "The Pope has a great love for children!".

I want to see you grow up happy! Your joy, the enthusiasm with which you sing, shout and pray are Brazil's greatest wealth and hope. May God bless all of you! May our Lady protect you!

I give each of you a great big hug and my blessing!

Long live the children of Bahia!

Long live the children of Brazil!

Long live the children of the whole world!

Teachings of the Magisterium on Abortion

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