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Pope Francis’ Prayer Intention for December

By Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ, 15 December 2019
Pope Francis kisses a child during Mass at the Tokyo Dome during his Apostolic Journey to Japan. Image: Vatican Media/Vatican News.

 

Pope Francis’ intention for December: The Future of the Very Young – That every country take the measures necessary to prioritise the future of the very young, especially those who are suffering.

The Pope’s Intention for December asks that all nations will create the conditions in which small children can be children. In doing this, he also invites us to reflect on the many ways in which children are not allowed to be children, but are treated as pawns on the chessboard of profits and political self-interest. Their childhood is then made a pit of suffering and disrespect.

Pope Francis is convinced that children are human beings like ourselves. They are precious in themselves and in God’s eyes. They are also our future: the relationships that children form with adults and with their peers will shape the direction that our world takes. So it is our business as human beings and as people responsible for our society to ensure that they can grow through childhood to become responsible adults.

For that they need respect, tenderness and the support of adults who will model for them what it means to be a good human being. Sadly, for so many children today that respect and humanity are lacking.

That is why Pope Francis’ intention is so important. We need to think only of the small children who enslaved in factories, in sex work and in begging, the young children who are made to fight in wars, the children separated from their families who are detained in immigration prisons and held in gaols, and the children dependent on violent adults who often suffer from mental illness. So often small children are treated as things, have the same demands made on them as adults and in disciplinary systems are subject to the same punishments as adults.

At Jesuit Social Services, we accompany many vulnerable young people, including those in the Justice System. Our experience underlies our advocacy for raising the age of criminal responsibility and minimising the reliance on detention as a response to antisocial behaviour.

At the heart of Pope Francis’ intention is the need to let children be children. Children need nurturing, need to explore their world in play and need to be loved and respected. Unless they experience these things in their childhood they are unlikely to grow into mature, generous adults. They need time to build good relationships with parents and siblings, with other children and with adults. These are demanding challenges in life. To be prepared for them children need time, trust and confidence.

Small children are especially vulnerable. If they are treated violently, unloved, exposed to addiction from an early age, deprived of education and the opportunity to work, or taken away from their families, they will be vulnerable to mental and physical illness and will find it helpful to contribute to society as adults.

Pope Francis tells us that they deserve better. They are our future to which we contribute best by nurturing, loving, mentoring and respecting them.

Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ writes for Jesuit Communications and Jesuit Social Services.

 

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