“We think about the children who are not wanted or abandoned, the children on the streets, without education or health care, children who are abused, who are robbed of their youth and childhood,” he said.
There are some who try to “justify themselves,” saying that it’s a mistake to bring these children into the world due to the poverty, hunger and fragility they suffer, the Pope continued.
For a child to experience these things “is shameful,” he noted, but quipped, “let’s not offload our sins onto children.”
A child, he said, “can never be considered a mistake. The mistake is the world of adults, the system that we have built, which generates pockets of poverty and violence, in which the weakest are hit the hardest.”
Francis’ focus on the suffering of children came after previous reflections on the blessing and gift they are to parents and the world. The theme fits into his ongoing catechesis on the family, which he began last fall in preparation for October’s Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family.
“Children are never a mistake, and their sufferings are only reasons for us to love them even more,” the Pope affirmed.
He continued, saying that each child who begs for money on the street and who is denied medical care and education is “a painful cry that goes directly to the heart of the Father, and accuses the system that we adults have built.”
Far too often these children become the prey of criminals who exploit them for either commerce or violence, the Pope said, noting that even children in wealthy countries frequently live “heavy dramas” due to family crisis or inhumane living conditions.
“In every case, their childhood is violated in body and soul,” he said, explaining that social stability, the promotion of the family, the lack of crime and the possibility of decent work all contribute, “without a doubt,” to assuring children of a good home.
No matter the circumstances, Francis said, no child is forgotten by their Father in heaven, and “none of their tears are lost, just as our responsibility is not lost.”
Children are the responsibility not just of their parents, but of everyone, he explained, adding that when it comes to the sacrifices one needs to make for children, none are “too costly.”
The Pope then pointed to the many “extraordinary parents” who make great sacrifices for their children every day, and said the Church puts herself at their service “with maternal solicitude and decisively defending their rights.”
“The Church, for her part, has always transmitted the blessing of the Lord to children and to families,” he said, and prayed that families would always care for their children and not worry about “counting the cost.”
It’s necessary for children to see this, he said, “so that they may never believe themselves to be mistakes, but always know their infinite worth.”
Francis closed his address by praying that children will never have to suffer from “the violence and arrogance of adults,” and went on to offer personal greetings to pilgrims present from various countries around the world.