On May 25, 2024, the Vatican will host the first World Children’s Day, where Pope Francis will meet with children from all over the world ranging from the ages of 6 to 12 years old. As registrations open today, February 2, 2024, on the event’s new website, the organizers held a press conference at the Vatican to explain what to expect from this new celebration.
“The Holy Father wishes to meet with boys and girls to hear the Gospel that quivers in the early season of one’s life,” said Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, Prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education, during the conference. “An event like this offers children the opportunity to become protagonists during strong moments of fellowship, of prayer, but also of formation.”
The event is organized by the Dicastery for Culture and Education, along with Father Enzo Fortunato, the coordinator of World Children’s Day and head of communications of St. Peter’s Basilica. They are partnering closely with other entities such as the Community of Sant’Egidio, the Rome Diocese, and the Auxilium cooperative.
Although the specifics were not yet explained, the events will be spread out between May 25 and 26 and the Pope will be present on both days to be with the children.
Father Fortunato said the days will bemarked by “testimonies [of faith], artists, and the voices of the children.”
The theme of the event is “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation, 21, 5).
A moment of prayer, joy, and faith
The idea for this day came from a 9-year-old boy named Alessandro, who suggested it to the Pope in a podcast broadcast last July shortly before World Youth Day in Lisbon. On November 6, 2023, the Pope also met at the Vatican with around 7,500 children from all over the world, in an event that has become the base for the World Children’s Day in May.
“It was like looking at a spring whose lively jet refreshed the earth and the Church with hope,” Cardinal Mendonça said, remembering the meeting. “This is why the Holy Father wants the children’s meeting with the Pope to become a moment that embraces the whole Church on a regular basis.”
“What [the children] will bring to Rome and St. Peter’s Square is certainly the joy of believing in Jesus,” the Cardinal emphasized.
In response to a question from the press highlighting that the World Children’s Day will take place during the 2024 Year of Prayer, Cardinal Mendonça explained that the “dominant element” of the day will in fact be prayer.
“It will be a meeting of prayer, worship, and celebration of faith, to show how children are not objects in the transmission of the faith, but are protagonists. Children believe in Jesus, they are protagonists in hearing the Gospel and in the joy of believing,” he said.
What will happen and who will attend
As the registrations just opened and this is the first edition, Father Fortunato explained they were not sure how many children to expect in May. Nonetheless, he said they are preparing “three paths,” without going into specifics of what these would include, in the week leading up to the event, centered on the themes of spirituality, solidarity, and culture. The organizers will also encourage dioceses to organize their own local events.
By working with the Community of Sant’Egidio and other entities, the organizers are also expecting children from countries affected by conflicts, such as Syria, Palestine, or Ukraine, and international refugees already in Italy. The organizers are also anticipating that children of different religions will attend. The Vatican has also partnered with local transport and accommodation companies to facilitate the trip for those who attend.
At the press conference the trailer and logo for the World Children’s Day was also unveiled. The latter shows several colorful handprints of different sizes under St. Peter’s Basilica’s dome.
“The dome is stretching itself out to embrace, welcome, and protect the little ones, the smallest of the small,” said the designer Marco Capasso at the press conference. “The lantern is a metaphor for Christians, ‘bringers of light.’ And the Cross, perennial symbol of the Passion and Resurrection, stands as once stood the Son of God made man for our sake.”