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Suffering children

VATICAN CITY (CNS): Pope John Paul II has appealed on behalf of the sick and suffering children around the globe, saying their “silent cry” should stir the world’s conscience.

Christians in particular should respond with “courageous action” to help children in distress, especially during Lent, the Pope said at his noon blessing on March 28.

The Pope, who made children the focus of his Lenten message this year, said he was worried about the many young people who suffer from serious diseases like tuberculosis and AIDS, as well as hunger and lack of education.

“Undernourishment and malnutrition, aggravated by worrisome deficiencies in health care, continue to be the daily cause of death for a great number of these small ones, who are deprived even of the minimum necessary for survival,” he said.

In some of the poorest countries, children and adolescents have been enrolled as soldiers in many of the world’s “forgotten wars”, the Pope said.

According to the Vatican’s missionary news agency, Fides, more than 300,000 child soldiers aged 7-17 are fighting in 36 conflicts around the world. Twelve of the conflicts are in Africa.

The Pope called this a horrible form of violence and aggression that forces children to carry out the hostilities and hatred of adults.

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