· Vatican City ·

Children from Ukraine and Palestine meet with Pope Francis

Witnesses of hope despite everything

 Witnesses of hope despite everything  ING-022
31 May 2024

Children missing limbs sat calmly before the Pope, happy for once to be in a place where they could marvel at a beautiful building rather than live in fear of bombs. About 30 children from Ukraine, Palestine, Belarus, and Indonesia met with Pope Francis at the Vatican, on Saturday, 25 May.

Father Marcin Schmidt, who arranged the visit as part of World Children’s Day, spoke to Vatican News about their experiences. He described the Pope’s welcome: “The Holy Father welcomed us with a big smile and great joy, like a grandfather embracing his grandchildren”.

During the audience, as Father Schmidt introduced the children and their tragic stories, Pope Francis softly responded with, “Terrible.”

The children, some from a hospital in Lviv, Ukraine, included those who had lost limbs and parents. They were accompanied by their doctors, whom Father Schmidt praised for their life-saving work. Among the group was Yana, a girl who ran the Boston Marathon a month ago with prosthetic legs. Pope Francis noted that Ukrainian children often struggle to smile, yet saw in Yana a symbol of hope and resilience.

Father Schmidt also highlighted the darker side of their experiences, mentioning the horrific realities of children being sold for organs and parents trading their children as commodities.

Despite their hardships, the day was a celebration for the children, who smiled at Pope Francis in a way only children can, unburdened by the world’s ugliness.

Father Schmidt also mentioned the “Order of the Smile”, an international award given by children to adults. Pope Francis received this award four years ago. Father Schmidt brought the audience to a close by thanking the Pope for his hospitality.

The Holy Father responded in Ukrainian: “Slava Isusu Khrystu”, “Praised be Jesus Christ”.

By Alessandro De Carolis