Vatican City, Dec 22, 2019 / 08:23 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Sunday attended a party with the children and families receiving treatment and help at the Vatican’s 98-year-old free health clinic.
“Giving children joy is a really great thing,” he said Dec. 22, greeting around 300 sick children and their families.
“Also, when parents know how to play with children, they do a really great thing,” he added. “Playing with children, the expression of children who are innocence, promise, many good things.”
Receiving “gifts” from three children dressed as the three magi, the pope spoke about hope, love, and peace.
“What is more beautiful, war or peace?” he asked the kids. “Peace!” they responded.
“To defeat war, love is needed,” he continued. Hope, he said, means “looking to the future, looking to the horizon, with the hope that always comes from the Lord, and even from our labor, a better world.”
The children are guests of the Vatican’s Santa Marta Pediatric Dispensary, which was started in 1922 to give free powdered milk to the poor children of Rome, the idea of an American woman with stock in a powdered milk company.
It continued to operate through the Second World War, and in 1952, the Vatican governorate asked to also host a pediatric unit at the same premises.
The services expanded to include medical visits for children and mothers, the distribution of various relief items, and home visits.
It also continued to give out “farina lattea,” a kind of baby food made from powdered milk and grains.
The dispensary went through several changes of location and scope before officially becoming a charitable foundation of the pope in 2008.
Today the Santa Marta Dispensary hosts 310 ill children from around the world, providing healthcare for them and their families.
It is run by 55 doctors, nurses, volunteers, and sisters of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.
It is financially supported by the pope, the Secretariat of State, the Vatican City State Governorate, and benefactors and friends.
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