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Pope John Paul II addresses the world:

Let Us Give Children
a Future of Peace

Following are excerpts taken from the Holy Father’s Message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace, January 1, 1996. He chose to deliver his 1996 plea for peace on December 8, 1995, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

When Pope Benedict XV asked Our Lady to show humanity the way to peace, Our Lady came in response eight days later to Fatima and gave the only solution. Today Jesus and Mary’s command for peace has not yet been fulfilled.

The present-day Holy Father, Pope John Paul II is making a plea to us. Our Lady now is expecting us to respond to this newest appeal for peace from a Pontiff. But She has already done Her part by giving us the Heaven-sent formula. Will we respond and do our part to assist the Holy Father so he can finally consecrate Russia according to Her request and bring about Her promised triumph and promised Peace?

Taken from L’Osservatore Romano December 13, 1995

At the beginning of this new year, my thoughts turn once again to children and to their legitimate hope for love and peace.

I feel bound to mention in a particular way children who are suffering and those who often grow to adulthood without even having experienced peace.

Children’s faces should always be happy and trusting, but at times they are full of sadness and fear: How much have these children already seen and suffered in the course of their short lives!

Let us give children
a future of peace!

This is the confident appeal which I make to men and women of good will, and I invite everyone to help children to grow up in an environment of authentic peace. This is their right, and it is our duty.

I begin by thinking of the great crowds of children whom I have met during the years of my Pontificate, especially during my Apostolic Visits to every continent: joyful children who are full of happiness. My thoughts turn to them at the beginning of this new year. It is my hope that all children of the world will be able to begin 1996 in happiness and to enjoy a peaceful childhood, with the help of responsible adults.

I pray that everywhere a harmonious relationship between adults and children will promote a climate of peace and authentic well-being. Sadly, many of the world’s children are innocent victims of war. In recent years millions of them have been wounded or killed: a veritable slaughter.

The special protection accorded to children by international law has been widely disregarded, and the dramatic increase of regional and inter-ethnic conflicts has made it difficult to implement the protective measures called for by humanitarian regulations.

Children have even become targets of snipers, their schools deliberately destroyed, and the hospitals where they are cared for bombed. In the face of such horrendous misdeeds, how can we fail to speak out with one voice in condemnation? The deliberate killing of a child is one of the most disturbing signs of the breakdown of all respect for human life ...

In addition to the children who have been killed, my thoughts also turn to those who have been maimed during or after these conflicts. I likewise think of young people who are systematically hunted down, raped or killed during so-called “ethnic cleansings”.

Children are not only victims of the violence of wars; many are forced to take an active part in them. In some countries of the world it has come to the point where even very young boys and girls are compelled to serve in the army of the warring parties. Enticed by the promise of food and schooling, they are confined to remote camps, where they suffer hunger and abuse and are encouraged to kill even people from their own villages. Often they are sent ahead to clear minefields. Clearly, the life of children has little value for those who use them in this way! ...

“Welcome Orphans with Love”

The humanitarian and religious organizations which attempt to relieve these inhuman sufferings deserve heartfelt respect. Thanks are also owed to those generous individuals and families who welcome orphans with love, and do everything they can to heal their traumas and to help them to fit once more into the communities from which they came.

The memory of the millions of children who have been killed, and the sad faces of so many others who are suffering compel us to take every possible measure to safeguard or re-establish peace, and to bring conflicts and wars to an end ...

Jesus, the Way of Peace

Peace is a gift of God; but men and women must first accept this gift in order to build a peaceful world. People can do this only if they have a childlike simplicity of heart. This is one of the most profound and paradoxical aspects of the Christian message: to become child-like is more than just a moral requirement but a dimension of the mystery of the Incarnation itself.

The Son of God did not come in power and glory, as he will at the end of the world, but as a child, needy and poor. Fully sharing our human condition in all things but sin (cf. Heb. 4:15), he also took on the frailty and hope for the future which are part of being a child. After that decisive moment for the history of humanity, to despise childhood means to despise the One who showed the greatness of his love by humbling himself and forsaking all glory in order to redeem mankind.

Jesus identified with the little ones. When the Apostles were arguing about who was the greatest, He “took a child and put him by His side, and said to them, ‘Whoever receives this child in My name, receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him Who sent Me’.” (Lk. 9:47-48) The Lord also forcefully warned us against giving scandal to children: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Mt. 18:6)

Jesus asked the disciples to become “children” again. When they tried to turn away the little ones who were pressing in upon Him, He said indignantly: “Let the children come to Me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the Kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mk. 10:14-15) ...

To become like a little child — with complete trust in the Father and with the meekness taught by the Gospel — is not only an ethical imperative; it is a reason for hope. Even where the difficulties are so great as to lead to discouragement and the power of evil so overwhelming as to dishearten, those who can rediscover the simplicity of a child can begin to hope anew. This is possible above all for those who know they can trust in a God who desires harmony among all people in the peaceful communion of his Kingdom ...

Let us give children a future of peace!

From the Vatican, 8 December 1995. Joannes Paulus II