Vatican City, 11 April 2014 (VIS) – This morning Pope Francis received in audience a delegation from the International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE), instituted following Pope Pius XII's appeal for the defence of children following the Second World War. Since then, this organisation, “born of the maternity of the Church”, as Pope Francis remarked, has been committed to promoting the defence of the rights of children, also contributing to the 1989 United Nations Convention and working in constant collaboration with the Holy See in New York, Strasbourg and above all in Geneva.
Francis, after stating that in a well-constructed society, privileges should only be for children and the elderly because the future of the people is in their hands”, went on to comment on the theme of abuse of minors. “I feel that I must take responsibility for all the harm that some priests – quite a number, but not in proportion to the total – I must take responsibility and ask forgiveness for the damage they have caused through sexual abuse of children. The Church is aware of this damage. It is their own personal and moral damage, but they are men of the Church. And we will not take one step backwards in dealing with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, I believe that we must be even stronger. You do not interfere with children.
“In our times, it is important to implement projects against forced labour, against the recruitment of child soldiers, and against every type of violence against minors. On a more positive note, it is necessary to emphasise the right of children to grow up within a family, with a father and a mother able to create a suitable environment for their development and emotional maturity. Continuing to mature in the relationship, in the complementarity of the masculinity and femininity of a father and a mother, and thus preparing the way for emotional maturity”.
“This means, at the same time, supporting parents' right to moral and religious education for their children. In this regard, I would like to express my refusal of any type of educational experimentation on children. One does not experiment on children and young people. They are not guinea pigs! The horrors of the manipulation of education that we have experienced in the great genocidal dictatorships of the twentieth century have not disappeared; they have retained current relevance in various guises and in proposals that, under the pretext of modernity, compel children and the young to take the dictatorial path of 'unitary thought'”. A great educator said to me, little more than a week ago, “At times, we don't know if these projects – referring to real education projects – are sending a child to school or to a re-education camp”.
“Working for human rights presupposes keeping anthropological formation alive, being well prepared regarding the reality of the human person, and knowing how to respond to the problems and challenges posed by contemporary cultures and mentalities that are spread by the mass media. Obviously this does not mean seeking refuge in protected environments, which these days are incapable of giving life, which are linked to cultures that have already moved on. …. No, this isn't right. It means facing with the positive values of the human person the new challenges that the new culture presents. For you, this means offering to your managers and workers a permanent formation regarding the anthropology of the child, as it is there that rights and duties are based. This decides the approach to educational projects, that obviously must continue to progress, mature and adapt to the signs of the times, always respecting human identity and freedom of conscience.
“Thank you again, and I wish you well in your work. I am reminded of the logo of the Commission for the protection of childhood and adolescence in Buenos Aires. It was an image of the Holy Family seated on a donkey, fleeing to Egypt to defend the Child. At times it is necessary to flee; at times it is necessary to stop to protect oneself; and at times one must fight. But always with tenderness”.