VATICAN OPENS REGISTRATION FOR MAY CELEBRATION OF WORLD CHILDREN'S DAY
By Cindy Wooden
Although the Vatican knows most of the children who will come to Rome May 25-26 for the first World Children's Day will be Italians, Pope Francis hopes local celebrations also will take place so that the whole Catholic Church can experience their joy and will show them the beauty of gathering with other believers, a cardinal said.
Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education, said that when Pope Francis met in November with some 7,000 children ages 6-12, "it seemed like we were watching a fountain whose lively jet refreshed the earth and the church."
Referring to the November event as the "zero edition" of World Children's Day, he said that with only six months to prepare for the May event, it probably will be "more like a final release than the concert itself," but it is still important for the children and for the church as a whole.
The cardinal spoke Feb. 2 at a news conference presenting initial plans for the May celebration and announcing the opening of pre-registration through the world day's website: https://www.worldchildrenday.org.
"The pope wants to meet the children to listen to the Gospel that vibrates in them in the first season of life," the cardinal said. While they obviously need education and formation, they "bring and share the joy of faith," the enthusiasm of being with friends, of meeting new people and of being awed by the art and architecture that faith has inspired in Rome through the centuries.
The theme Pope Francis chose for the event is from Revelation 21:5: "Behold, I make all things new."
Franciscan Father Enzo Fortunato, who coordinated the November event and is coordinating the gathering in May, said it will be an afternoon or evening session of music, testimonies and a question-and-answer session with Pope Francis May 25 and a Mass with the pope in St. Peter's Square May 26.
In addition, he said, activities will be set up around Rome on three "paths": spirituality, solidarity and culture.
The Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio, which runs "schools of peace" involving about 10,000 children throughout Italy, is involved in organizing World Children's Day and will be working with the Italian government to get special visas for children from Palestine, Ukraine, South Sudan, Eritrea and Haiti, said Marco Impagliazzo, president of the community.
He reminded journalists that at the November meeting, the questions the children asked the pope — and he insisted they wrote the questions themselves mostly focused on the personal life of the pope, making friends and making peace and caring for the environment.