First World Children’s Day: celebration of faith, ‘hearing from world’s future’

Ahead of the Church's first World Children's Day on 25-26 May, several Vatican and Church officials describe the celebration in Rome that will see Pope Francis meet with children from all over the world for a moment of prayer, friendship, and formation.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

The first World Children’s Day will be held on 25-26 May 2024, and will involve the participation of Pope Francis and children from all over the world at an event in Rome.

The recently-instituted Day, organized by the Dicastery for Culture and Education, was presented at a press conference in the Holy See Press Office on Friday.

Among those speaking were Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, Prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education; Fr. Enzo Fortunato, coordinator of World Children’s Day and communications spokesperson of St. Peter’s Basilica; and, Marco Impagliazzo, president of the Sant’Egidio Community.

Vatican Press Conference on World Children's Day
Vatican Press Conference on World Children’s Day

Cardinal Mendonça: Day celebrated in Rome and local Dioceses

Cardinal Mendonça expressed their surprise when Pope Francis “on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, announced the Day,” and recalled the Holy Father’s joy during his 6 November encounter in the Vatican with thousands of children, where he candidly responded to their questions.

The Cardinal Prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education said celebrations of World Children’s Day would likely become a regular event, acknowledging that the Pope desires to listen and encounter children.

The first event will be held on two levels, Cardinal Mendonça said, in Rome and universally at the diocesan level.

“An event like this,” he said, “offers children the possibility to become protagonists through moments of prayer, friendship, and formation.”

“An event like this offers children the possibility to become protagonists through moments of prayer, friendship, and formation.”

Prayer, celebrating faith and belief in Jesus

Cardinal Mendonça spoke to Vatican News about the “very significant coincidence” that the Day will take place during the Year of Prayer, stressing prayer and love for Jesus will be at the Day’s heart.

“The transmission of the faith,” he underscored, “is not done in a theoretical way but is done precisely by praying together.”

The Cardinal Prefect recalled Jesus’ reminder that when two or three are gathered together in His name, He is present.

“This,” Cardinal Mendonça reassured, “is what the children will experience next to the Holy Father,” in an environment of conviviality, “where there will certainly be room for conviviality, for a more playful space.”

“But the dominant elements will be prayer, adoration, and celebration of the faith, showing how children are not objects in the transmission of the faith, but are protagonists. Children believe in Jesus.”

“The dominant elements will be prayer, adoration, and celebration of the faith, showing how children are not objects in the transmission of the faith, but are protagonists. Children believe in Jesus”

Children, he highlighted, transmit the joy of believing in Jesus and hearing the Gospel, and will epitomize this as they bring their faith to Rome and to St. Peter’s Square.

Fr. Fortunato: Three journeys leading toward the Day

Meanwhile, Fr. Enzo Fortunato, the coordinator of World Children’s Day and communications spokesperson of St. Peter’s Basilica, thanked Pope Francis for his encouragement.

He acknowledged that, while it is early to explain all the specifics of the day,  various preparations are underway.

The Pope, he affirmed, will be present and involved throughout the encounter.

For example, he noted the offering of “three journeys,” leading up to the event, in the realms of “spirituality, solidarity, and culture.”

The logo and website were also unveiled at the press conference.

The logo was envisioned and created in January 2024 by Marco Capasso and Studio Creativo, and it depicts the hands of the little ones embraced by the Church, under the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Marco Impagliazzo: Children are the future of humanity

Marco Impagliazzo expressed his gratitude to Pope Francis for calling for the first World Children’s Day within the Catholic Church.

“At a time of war and a lack of concern for the environment, there is a need to give the young generation a voice, as the successful meeting in the Paul VI Hall with Pope Francis and thousands of children from all over the world on November 6 last year shows,” he said. “We need to listen to the children because their voice is a convinced and explicit ‘no’ to war and the destruction of nature.”

He said the Sant’Egidio Community in Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia are preparing for the Day with their Schools of Peace, saying they hope to make it “an occasion to put children, who are the present and the future of humanity, back at the centre of the world’s attention.”

World Children’s Day, Mr. Impagliazzo underscored, will offer children an opportunity to encounter Jesus and will encourage their ability to dream.

Speaking to Vatican News, he shared how the Community of Sant’Egidio is committed to enabling many children from the peripheries and the most disadvantaged, and conflict-ridden areas to partake in the Day.

Mr. Impagliazzo noted their efforts to facilitate the presence of children from Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan, and some passing through Libya, at the Day, as well others from Haiti, Palestine, Israel, Ukraine, South Sudan, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Colombia. He also noted that children from other religions are expected to attend.

“The presence of these children,” he underscored, “will remind us that the world needs peace.”

Listen to our interview with Marco Impagliazzo:

Website to contain all logistical details

The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, highlighted Pope Francis’ desire to set up a day in the Church dedicated to children.

He announced that more information on World Children’s Day is available on the official website, launched on Friday, along with information on how to register to attend the event in Rome and details related to lodging, transportation, and other logistical details.