The Feast of Holy Innocents and Our Call to Defend Children
Pope Francis wrote to the Bishops of the Church on the Feast of the Holy Innocents (December 28) in order to exhort bishops to protect the child-like joy of Christmas and those who embody it: the innocent children in our midst.
The Holy Father wrote about the grief and tragedy that surrounds even the wondrous birth of the Savior and spoke of the continuation of this grief today. “To contemplate the manger also means to contemplate this cry of pain, to open our eyes and ears to what is going on around us, and to let our hearts be attentive and open to the pain of our neighbors, especially where children are involved,” he wrote. The story of Christmas should open us up to the vulnerable around us rather than leave us enclosed in our own worlds and concerns.
Pope Francis pointed out the many ways in which children suffer around the world: human trafficking, slave labor, exploitation, prostitution, war, forced immigration, extreme poverty, and so on. He called for the Church to “hear these children and their cries of pain” and to also remember that children have been hurt by the Church’s priests themselves. “It is a sin that shames us,” he said.
Calling for the bishops to imitate St. Joseph and his protection of innocent human life, Pope Francis asked for “new courage” to ensure that children will be “not only respected but, above all, defended.”