Pope Francis meets with students of the Network for Schools of Peace Pope Francis meets with students of the Network for Schools of Peace  (Vatican Media)

Pope asks children to be “artisans of peace”

Pope Francis asks Italian children to pray for their peers in Ukraine and Gaza, and encourages them to be “artisans of peace” as he meets with students and teachers of the Italian National Network of the Schools of Peace to the Vatican.

By Christopher Wells

More than 6000 Italian girls and boys connected with the Italian National Network of Schools of Peace visited the Vatican on Friday morning for a special encounter with Pope Francis. 

During a lively speech in which he repeatedly called for responses from the children, Pope Francis made a special appeal to remember children who afflicted by war and conflict, especially the children of Ukraine “who have forgotten how to smile”, and for the children of Gaza, “gunned-down” and suffering from hunger.

The Network of Schools of Peace was conceived after years of work at promoting the permanent education for peace and human rights in the curricula of all schools at every level. The Network is committed to educating young people about peace, justice, citizenship, human rights, and responsibility.

A journey 'full of ideas'

Pope Francis began his address to his youthful audience by thanking them for their journey “full of ideas” that aim to promote “a new vision of the world.” He thanked them “for being full of enthusiasm” and for their passionate and generous commitment to working for a better future. 

Looking ahead to next fall’s Summit of the Future, hosted by the UN In New York, the Pope said the children’s contribution is necessary to ensure that the resolutions made on paper become “concrete and realized through paths and actions for change.”

Referring to the Italian initiative “Transforming the Future: For peace, with care,” the Pope challenged the boys and girls to be “protagonists, and not spectators of the future.” This, he said, requires networking, connections, and for people to be able to work together in synergy and harmony.

A collective dream

The Pope warned that today’s challenges are truly global, affect everyone, and require “the courage and creativity of a collective dream that animates an ongoing commitment to face together the environmental, economic, political and social crises that our planet is going through.”

He said, “it is a dream that requires us to be awake, not asleep,” and insisted that such dreams are realized through prayer, “that is, together with God, and not by our own strength.”

Pope Francis went on to highlight the two key words at the heart of their commitment: “peace” and “care.” These two ideas are interconnected, he said, explaining that true peace is not just the absence of violence but a “climate of goodwill, trust, and love that can mature in a society founded on relationships of care.”

Artisans of peace, attitude of caring

Addressing the young people with deep affection, the Holy Father invited them to do their own part to foster peace in our world.

"In this time still marked by war, I ask you to be artisans of peace," he said. "In a society still prisoner of a throwaway culture, I ask you to be protagonists of inclusion; in a world torn by global crises, I ask you to be builders of the future, so that our common home may become a place of fraternity.”

Finally, Pope Francis appealed to the children to oppose an attitude of indifference with an attitude of caring, inviting them to “always care about the fate of our planet and your fellow human beings” and “about the future that opens before us, so that it may truly be as God dreams it for all: a future of peace and beauty for all humanity.”

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19 April 2024, 10:30