MEETING OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
WITH THE MEMBERS OF THE HOSPITAL INSTITUTE OF THE INNOCENTS OF FLORENCE
Hall of the Consistory
Friday, 24 May 2019
Greeting of the Holy Father "of the cuff"
Speech of the Holy Father delivered
Dear brothers and sisters,
I had prepared a speech for you, but it is a bit boring to read ... I prefer to say two words and above all greet each other one by one.
You [the President of the Institute] said an expression that is touching: the "culture of the child". Today we have to take it up again. Children's culture. There is a culture of surprise in seeing growth, seeing how they are surprised by life, how they come into contact with life. And we must learn to do the same. This way, this road that we all have made as children, we must take it again. You quoted the Gospel of Mark: "Let the children come ..."; but there are also other passages of the Gospel in which Jesus goes even further: he not only says he welcomes children, and he who welcomes them welcomes him, but goes further: "If you do not become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven". And this is what the child's culture must teach us. We must somehow go back to a child's simplicity and above all the ability to surprise us. The surprises! Our God is the God of surprises, and we must learn this.
And I still have to say another thing, which I would like to take back from you: those broken medals ... [half to the child and half to the mother who left him at the Institute]. Today in the world there are many children who ideally have half the medal. They are alone. Victims of war, victims of migration, unaccompanied children, victims of hunger. Children with half a medal. And who has the other half? The Mother Church. We have the other half. We need to reflect and make people understand that we are responsible for this other half and help make today another "home of the innocent", more global, with the attitude of adoption. So many times there are people who want to adopt children, but there is such a big bureaucracy - when there is no corruption of the middle, you pay and ... But help me in this: to sow awareness that we have the other half of that child's medal. Many, many families who do not have children and would certainly have the desire to have one with adoption: moving forward, creating a culture of adoption because abandoned children, alone, victims of war and so on are so many; that people learn to look at that half and say, "I have another one too". I ask you to work on this. And thanks!
Speech of the Holy Father delivered
Dear brothers and sisters,
I welcome all of you, the leaders and operators of the Istituto degli Innocenti, and to you, boys and girls, who are the protagonists of this institution that has been welcoming, assisting and promoting children for six hundred years. When I came to Florence, in 2015, for the V National Ecclesial Convention, speaking of the beauty of the city, I could not help remembering that much of that beauty was put at the service of charity, and I mentioned the "Hospital of the Innocenti ”as an example. I recalled that "one of the first Renaissance architectures was created for the service of abandoned children and desperate mothers" (Speech at the Ecclesial Convention of Florence, 10 November 2015).
The Institute of the Innocents, with its six centuries of history - a story that is not over, but that looks to the future - speaks to us of a city that has put the best of itself in welcoming children, so that they should no longer be called "abandoned" but welcomed, entrusted to the love and care of the community. That of the Innocents is a story that has much to teach us. Meanwhile, he sees at the origin the generosity of a rich banker, Francesco Datini, who donated the amount with which it was possible to start the realization of this work. Even today, the social and ethical responsibility of the world of finance is an indispensable value for building a more just and united society. The other striking element of this story is that the design was entrusted to Filippo Brunelleschi, the most important architect of the time, who at that time was working on a masterpiece that still today astonishes the world: the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Because the same beauty dedicated to the house of the Lord is also dedicated to the home of less fortunate children. Because for the needy children of reception it was not enough to give the milk of the nurses, there was the desire to make them grow in an environment that was as beautiful as possible.
And for six hundred years, the Istituto degli Innocenti has been concerned to offer its children and girls everything they need to grow in a dignified manner. This is a truth that today must be said with strength: to the poor, to fragile creatures, to those who live in the suburbs, we must offer the best we have. And among the most fragile people we have to care for there are certainly so many rejected children, robbed of their childhood and their future; minors facing desperate journeys to escape hunger or war. Children who do not see the light because their mothers suffer economic, social, cultural conditioning that pushes them to give up that wonderful gift that is the birth of a child. How much we need a culture that recognizes the value of life, especially the weak, threatened, offended, and instead of thinking of being able to put it aside, to exclude it with walls and closures, be concerned with offering care and beauty! A culture that recognizes in every face, even the smallest, the face of Jesus: "Whoever welcomes one child like this in my name, welcomes me" (Mt 18: 5).
The Istituto degli Innocenti is a place of history, but also of stories: smaller stories, but equally fascinating. These are the stories of the hundreds of thousands of children who have passed between those walls. Still speaking at the Florence Conference, I also referred to a particular aspect: the fact that mothers often left, together with newborns, medals broken in half, with which they hoped, by presenting the other half, to be able to recognize their children in better times. «Here - I said -, we must imagine that our poor have a broken medal. We have the other half. Because the Mother Church has in Italy half of everyone's medal and recognizes all its abandoned, oppressed, fatigued children ".
Today the goal we must set ourselves, at various levels of responsibility, is that no mother is in a position to leave her child. But we must also ensure that in the face of any event, even tragic, that may detach a child or a girl from her parents, there are structures and paths of welcome in which childhood is always protected and cared for, in the only way worthy : giving children the best we can offer them. Remembering the words of Jesus who invites us all to become like you, as children, to be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
This is what the Istituto degli Innocenti teaches us with its centuries-old history, with the thousands of stories it has hosted, and with the stories that today you too, boys and girls, tell with your smiling and joyful faces. And this is what I thank the managers, the operators and all those who contribute to carry out the various activities of the Istituto degli Innocenti. I thank you and I invite you to continue your service with competence and tenderness, professionalism and dedication. I pray for this and I bless you. And I ask you to please pray for me.