"Society is sad and grey because it has no children"
Children are a gift for humanity who can teach adults to be spontaneous and authentic, and yet they are the “great excluded ones” who are often not allowed to be born, Pope Francis has said.
Speaking to pilgrims attending his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square today, the Holy Father said children are a “treasure for humanity” who “remind us that we are always children.”
“Children bring life, joy, hope, and also trouble. But, this is life,” the Pope said. But he added that these problems are “better than a society that is sad and grey because it has no children.”
“When we see the birthrate of a society reach just one percent, we can say that this society is sad and grey because it has no children,” he said.
The Pope said these words on the day in which he approved the canonization of the parents of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, the 19th century French Carmelite saint and doctor of the Church renowned for her “little way” of spiritual childhood through which she has taught countless people the way to God.
Here below we publish an English translation of the Pope’s full address.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. Having looked at the various figures in the family — mother, father, sons and daughters, siblings, grandparents — I would like to conclude this first group of catecheses on the family by speaking about children. I will do so in two stages: today I will reflect on the great gift which children are for humanity — it is true they are a great gift for humanity, but they are also the great excluded ones, because they are not allowed to be born — and next time I will reflect on several wounds which regrettably harm childhood.
The great many children who I met during my last journey to Asia come to mind: full of life, of enthusiasm. On the other hand, I see that in the world many of them live in undignified conditions. In fact, a society can be judged by the way it treats its children. Not only morally, but also sociologically, if it is a free society or a society enslaved to international interests.
First, children remind us that all of us, in the early years of life, were totally dependent on the care and kindness of others. And the Son of God did not spare himself this step. It is the mystery we contemplate each year at Christmas. The crèche is the icon which communicates this reality to us in the most simple and direct way. But it’s curious: God has no difficulty in being understood by children, and the children have no trouble understanding God. It’s not by chance that, in the Gospel, there are very beautiful and strong words of Jesus about “little ones”. This term “little ones” indicates all people who depend on the help of others, and especially children. For example, Jesus said: ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and have revealed them to the little ones” (Mt 11:25). And again: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 18:10).
Therefore, children are in themselves a treasure for humanity and for the Church, because they constantly remind us of the necessary condition for entering the kingdom of God: that of not considering ourselves self-sufficient but rather in need of help, love, and forgiveness. And we all need help, love and forgiveness.
Children remind us of another beautiful thing. They remind us that we are always children. Even if one becomes an adult, or elderly; even if one becomes a parent or occupies a position of responsibility, beneath all this is the identity of the child. We are all children. And that always brings us back to the fact that we have not given ourselves life, but rather we have received it. The great gift of life is the first gift we have received. Sometimes in life we risk forgetting this, as if we were the masters of our existence, whereas we are radically dependent. In fact, it is a great joy to hear that in every age, in every situation, in every walk of life, we remain children. This is the main message that children give us by their presence: by their presence alone, they remind us that all of us and each one of us are children.