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Precious gifts

The Catholic Church places a profound emphasis on the sanctity and dignity of children, rooted in the teachings of Scripture and the wisdom of the Church’s Magisterium.

This reverence for the young is eloquently expressed in the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ landmark document on the joy and challenges of family life.

Amoris Laetitia underscores the family as the “domestic church,” where children encounter the love of God and learn the ways of faith. The text draws inspiration from the biblical accounts of Jesus’ own affection for children, whom He welcomed and blessed, declaring, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mk 10:14).

This profound reverence is echoed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child, which affirms that “mankind owes to the child the best it has to give”.

Thus in his message for the Church’s first World Children’s Day, which is being commemorated this Sunday, Pope Francis reminds us “children are a gift, a blessing from God, entrusted to us to be cared for, protected, and nurtured”.

He calls upon all members of the human family to uphold the inherent dignity of children, ensuring that they are afforded the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential. They are our future.

The Church’s teachings emphasise the vital role of the family in fostering the growth and well-being of children. Amoris Laetitia underscores the family as the “first school of human values, where we learn the wise use of freedom”.

It is within the family that children learn the important and life-giving virtues of love, compassion, and service, which prepare them to become active and engaged members of society.

The Pope’s message further reinforces this sentiment, stating that “the family is the first and most important place where children learn to love, to forgive, and to respect one another.”

This echoes the words of the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child, which affirms that “the child, for the full and harmonious development of his personality, needs love and understanding.”

Tragically, we can all attest that not all children experience the nurturing and supportive environment that the Church and the UN Declaration envision. This is a sad reality of life. How many children have been led down the wrong path? Amoris Laetitia acknowledges the reality of pain and suffering within families, recognising that “not all families are able to provide this experience”.

The Children’s Authority of Trinidad & Tobago has far too often had cause to issue media releases lamenting the neglect, various forms of abuse and criminal behaviour towards some of our nation’s children that have come to light through social media.

The Pope’s message for World Children’s Day 2024 laments the “many children who suffer from poverty, violence, and exploitation,” calling upon all people of goodwill to protect the vulnerable and ensure that every child is afforded the opportunity to thrive.

We, the adults, must do better.

In response to these challenges, the Church offers a message of hope and compassion. Amoris Laetitia emphasises the importance of “accompanying, discerning, and integrating weakness” within families, recognising that “no family is perfect” and that the Church must extend mercy and support to all.

The Pope’s message echoes this sentiment, urging the faithful to “be a voice for the voiceless” and to “stand up for the rights and dignity of every child”.

Every Christmas, we celebrate the birth of the Saviour of the world coming in human form as a helpless, defenceless, vulnerable baby. A gift from God to the world.

Like the baby Jesus, our children are precious gifts. Let us treasure them more.