Vatican News – By Robin Gomes
Children from around the world are encouraging their counterparts to join a Rosary prayer campaign for peace and unity in the world. Over 181,000 children have already enrolled in this year’s initiative called, “A million children praying the Rosary”, which will be held on October 18. The annual drive is organized by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), an international Catholic pastoral aid organization, which offers financial support to over 5,000 projects in more than 140 countries worldwide.
Emails and messages from dioceses, missions, and parishes from all over the world have been pouring into the head-office and national delegations of ACN, raising the hope that the official number of participants will be higher than last year.
More than 50 countries have confirmed their participation, including Myanmar, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Zambia, the DRC, Lebanon, Ecuador, Peru, Kazakhstan and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
A recent message from a diocese in Myanmar expresses confidence that the rosary prayer can bring hope to the country’s suffering communities. It reads: “I thank you very much for inviting us to participate in the worldwide prayer campaign, ‘One Million Children Praying the Rosary’.” “I have sent notification to all parish priests to organize the faithful in the parishes”, says a local church leader, who requested anonymity for security reasons.
The message continues: “The situation has been bad for months now. The pandemic is rather severe in our area. All the villages are in lockdown. Praying the Rosary daily is the only source of strength physically and psychologically in the villages. Our diocese will join you and pray for you and for your intentions. I am ever grateful to you for all concerns, love, kindness and generous support.”
This year’s initiative is being supported by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, the World Apostolate of Fátima and of the Marian shrine of Fatima, which is intimately connected to the Rosary.
In another message, Bishop Jose Adalberto Jiménez Mendoza of the Vicariate Apostolic of Aguarico in Amazonian Ecuador pledges his commitment to the initiative and informs ACN that at least 2500 children will be taking part, a number that is expected to rise to 7500 if family members are included as well.
The idea of “A million children praying the Rosary” campaign was born in 2005 in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. While several children were praying the rosary at a wayside shrine, some of the women present had a profound experience of the presence of the Virgin Mary. They recalled the words of Saint Padre Pio, who, on seeing a group of children reciting the rosary, remarked: “When one million children pray the rosary, the world will change.”
Blessed with the stigmata or the wounds of Jesus, the renowned Italian Franciscan priest prayed the rosary several times a day. Before his death in 1968, he urged his followers to pray the Rosary saying: “Love Our Lady and make her loved. Recite the Rosary and recite it always and as much as you can.”
The campaign quickly spread across the world and ACN has been supporting it since 2008 and took over the organization of the entire event two years ago.
“A million children praying the Rosary” is held in October, the month dedicated to the Rosary. It is observed on October 18 to mark the feast of Saint Luke, whose Gospel speaks about the childhood of Jesus. The number of participants in this initiative has been increasing every year, with the aim of reaching at least one million officially registered participants.
Prayer materials for the campaign are available in 27 languages, including Arabic and Hausa in West Africa.
This year the initiative is centred around Saint Joseph, with quotations from the Apostolic Letter Patris Corde (“With a Father’s Heart”) of Pope Francis to mark the current Year of Saint Joseph, which concludes on December 8 2021. This year’s campaign will encourage children to pray “hand in hand with Our Lady and under the protection of Saint Joseph”, says Cardinal Piacenza, president of ACN International.
Father Martin Barta, the Spiritual Assistant to ACN International, notes that in “many countries, children, in particular, are suffering from the effects of war and persecution”. He believes that the Rosary campaign is a good opportunity for children to pray together and express their solidarity.