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Pope to Italian schoolchildren: 'Dream big, like John XXIII and Martin Luther King'

  • Religion

Pope Francis meets with 6,000 schoolchildren, teachers, and school leaders, urging them to follow in the footsteps of “modern day prophets” Pope St John XXIII and Martin Luther King Jr.

By Joseph Tulloch

Pope Francis on Monday met with a group of 6,000 Italian schoolchildren, teachers, and school leaders in a meeting organised by the country’s National Network of Schools for Peace.

During the session, which was entitled “For Peace. With Care” and held in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, the Pope spoke of the importance of constantly building peace, and held up Pope St John XXIII and Martin Luther King as “prophets of our times.”

Peace is always urgent

A key theme of the Pope’s address was the importance of always striving to build peace, rather than only doing so when we ourselves are directly impacted by war.

“We often talk about peace when we feel directly threatened,” he said, “as in the case of a possible nuclear attack or a war being fought on our doorstep. Just as we take an interest in the rights of migrants when we have some relative or friend who has emigrated.”

“In fact, we always, always need to pay attention to peace! Just like we need to always pay attention to the other, to our brothers and sisters; they must be taken care of.”

Prophets of peace

The Pope then said that he wanted to remind his listeners of the example of two prominent witnesses to peace.

The first of these was Pope St John XXIII. “He was called the “Good Pope,” and also the “Pope of Peace”,” the Holy Father said, “because in those difficult beginnings of the 1960s, marked by strong tensions – the construction of the Berlin Wall, the Cuba crisis, the Cold War and the nuclear threat – he published the famous and prophetic Encyclical Pacem in Terris … It was a call that received great attention in the world, far beyond the Catholic community.”

The Pope also mentioned Martin Luther King Jr., calling him “another prophet of our times”.

“In an American context heavily marked by racial discrimination,” he said, “he made everyone dream with the idea of a world of justice, freedom and equality. He said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by their character.””

The Pope then addressed the gathered schoolchildren directly.

“And you, boys and girls: what is your dream for the world of today? What is your dream for the world and for tomorrow? I encourage you to dream big, like John XXIII and Martin Luther King.”

A Global Educational Compact

Pope Francis also had warm words for the organisers of the event, which was convened response to his appeal several years ago for a Global Compact on Education.

“I congratulate you students and your teachers for the rich program of activities and training you have undertaken,” he said. “I am happy to see that it is not only Catholic schools, universities and organisations that are responding to this call, but also public, secular and other religious institutions.”

Source: Vatican News