ROME – Many organizations around the world sponsor some version of a “bring your kids to work day,” so perhaps it’s only fitting that the Vatican is doing the same thing Monday, only on a much vaster scale.
Over 7,000 children from 84 countries around the world will meet Pope Francis Monday, in the same space where the pontiff recently presided over his Oct . 4-29 Synod of Bishops, the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall.
The gathering was announced by the pontiff Oct. 1, and anticipates the World Day of the Rights of the Child observed by the United Nations Nov. 20 of each year.
“Children teach us the clarity of relationships, the spontaneous welcome of strangers and respect for all creation,” the pope said in announcing the gathering.
“Dear children, to all of you, I am waiting for you to learn from you too,” he said.
Officially sponsored by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education, the event is organized by an Italian non-profit organization called Auxilium; the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic movement often called upon by the pope to support his social initiatives; and regional school offices in Italy.
The event is also being supported by the Italian railway system, which will carry thousands of children from various regions of the country to the event.
The event, set for Monday afternoon Rome time, will be carried live by the Italian national broadcaster RAI.
Angelo Chiorazzo, the founder of Auxilum, said Monday’s event will mark “the first time the pope will meet so many boys and girls from every continent,” making it, he said, “an extraordinary prophetic gesture that reminds us adults of a key word, which is relevant and urgent today: The word ‘fraternity’.”
Chiorazzo is also the candidate of a left-wing coalition in his native southern Italian region of Basilicata for the regional presidency in elections next year.
The primary organizer of the event is Franciscan Father Enzo Fortunato, a well-known personality in Italian media who runs the press office of the basilica and Franciscan friary in Assisi. He’s co-host of a weekly program on Italy’s national television broadcaster, RAI, called In Cammino, or “On the Way,” and in July, he hosted an impromptu Facebook live with Pope Francis from his residence in the Domus Santa Marta in the Vatican.
“In these months that are so dramatic for the world,” Fortunato said, “this meeting opens up the path to take, starting over from the little ones. In the darkest hour, the Holy Father is giving us a ray of light by ‘learning from the children.’”
“Facing the hell of war, the Church offers the beauty of peace,” Fortunato said.
Italian media reports have been especially excited by the expected presence of “Mr. Rain,” a popular Italian singer and rapper who’s given name is Mattia Belardi. Among other things, he’s expected to perform his most famous song, Supereroi (“Superheroes”) in both Italian and English.
Pope Francis is familiar with the song, having cited it during an interview in March with the Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano. The pontiff noted that the song quotes a celebrated phrase from Bishop Tonino Bello, Italy’s most famous contemporary “peace bishop,” who’s now a candidate for beatification.
“Recently, a song took up his famous phrase: ‘We’re angels with only one wing.’ To fly, we have to be embraced by our brother, whose wing we hold onto while he holds onto to ours,” the pope said.
“No one saves themselves: We saw that during the pandemic too,” Francis said.
The indirect reference to Mr. Rain’s Supereroi came just a couple of weeks after he had performed it to great acclaim during Italy’s annual San Remo music festival, leading many observers to presume Francis had seen it on television.