Pope Francis with the Ukrainian and Palestinian children Pope Francis with the Ukrainian and Palestinian children  (VATICAN MEDIA Divisione Foto)

Pope meets with Ukrainian and Palestinian children

On Saturday, Father Marcin Schmidt accompanied a group of children, predominantly from war zones, to the Vatican. Despite everything, they brought a message of hope.

By Alessandro De Carolis

Children missing limbs sit calmly before the Pope, happy for once to be in a place where they can marvel at a beautiful building rather than live in fear of bombs.

About thirty children from Ukraine, Palestine, Belarus, and Indonesia met with Pope Francis.

Father Marcin Schmidt, who arranged this visit as part of World Children's Day, spoke to Vatican News about their experiences.

Pope Francis meets with the children
Pope Francis meets with the children

A Grandfather's embrace

Father Schmidt described the Pope's welcome: "The Holy Father welcomed us with a big smile and great joy, like a grandfather embracing his grandchildren."

During the audience, as Father Schmidt introduced the children and their tragic stories, Pope Francis softly responded with "terrible."

The children, some from a hospital in Lviv, Ukraine, included those who had lost limbs and parents. They were accompanied by their doctors, whom Father Schmidt praised for their life-saving work.

The Pope kisses a child during the meeting
The Pope kisses a child during the meeting

Symbols of Resilience

Among the group was Yana, a girl who ran the Boston Marathon a month ago with prosthetic legs.

Pope Francis noted that Ukrainian children often struggle to smile, yet saw in Yana a symbol of hope and resilience.

Father Schmidt also highlighted the darker side of their experiences, mentioning the horrific realities of children being sold for organs and parents trading their children as commodities.

The Pope with Fr Schmidt and some of the children
The Pope with Fr Schmidt and some of the children

A Celebration of Childhood

Despite their hardships, the day was a celebration for the children, who smiled at Pope Francis in a way only children can, unburdened by the world's ugliness.

Father Schmidt also mentioned the "Order of the Smile," an international award given by children to adults. Pope Francis received this award four years ago.

Father Schmidt brought the audience to a close by thanking the Pope for his hospitality.

He responded in Ukrainian: "Slava Isusu Khrystu", "Praised be Jesus Christ".

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25 May 2024, 14:31