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Italian actor Roberto Benigni to join Pope Francis for World Children’s Day

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Pope Francis meets with Italian actor Roberto Benigni on Dec. 7, 2022. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, May 16, 2024 / 11:49 am (CNA).

Pope Francis will be joined by Italian actor Roberto Benigni and soccer star Gianluigi Buffon as the pontiff celebrates World Children’s Day over the last weekend in May.

The Vatican announced on Thursday that World Children’s Day will “kick off” on Saturday, May 25, at 3:30 p.m. with a soccer match between kids and professional soccer players in Rome’s Olympic Stadium led by Buffon, the goalie who helped Italy achieve victory in the 2006 World Cup.

On the second day of the event, Benigni, best known for his Oscar-winning film “Life Is Beautiful,” will give a short speech at the end of Pope Francis’ Mass and Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, May 26. 

World Children’s Day is a new initiative by Pope Francis sponsored by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education in collaboration with the Catholic community of Sant’Egidio, the Auxilium Cooperative, and the Italian Football Federation. 

The Vatican is expecting children from more than 100 countries to travel to Rome for the weekend event with the pope.

When Pope Francis first announced the establishment of World Children’s Day in December 2023, he said: “Like Jesus, we want to put children at the center and care for them.”

According to Vatican News, Pope Francis was inspired to create World Children’s Day by a 9-year-old boy named Alessandro who proposed the idea to the pope to have an international event like World Youth Day (an international gathering for young people ages 16 to 35) for younger children.

The two-day event will culminate with Mass for the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity with the pope in St. Peter’s Square at 10:30 a.m. on May 26.

Franciscan Father Enzo Fortunato is organizing World Children’s Day for the Vatican. He said the goal is to “look at the world through the eyes of children, who are the hope of the people, their future.”

“I publicly thank Roberto Benigni and all those who have decided to work and donate their time and talent to children all over the world,” he added.


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