By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — With so many children in the world needing a good home and so many couples unable to have children, there must be a way to make adoption easier and less costly, Pope Francis said.
Meeting May 24 with representatives of the Institute of the Innocents from Florence, Italy, Pope Francis said he was struck by the idea that, in the old days, when a baby was left at the institute, he or she would be given half of a medal, while the mother would be given the other half.
“Today in the world there are many children who have half a medal,” the pope said. “They are alone, the victims of war, victims of migration, unaccompanied minors, victims of famine.”
“Who has the other half?” the pope asked. “Mother church. We have the other half. We must reflect and help our people understand that we are responsible for that other half and help create another ‘house of the innocents,’ one what is more global, with an attitude of adoption.”
“So many times there are people who want to adopt children, but there is such massive bureaucracy,” he said. Sometimes there also is corruption and a desire for money.
“Help me with this,” the pope asked the representatives. “Create a culture of adoption, because there are children who are abandoned, alone, victims of war and many others. May people learn to look at the medal and say, ‘I have the other half.'”
The Institute of the Innocents was founded 600 years ago as home for abandoned babies. Over the centuries, the institute evolved, functioning as an orphanage, a home for unwed mothers and as a school for poor children.
The institute now provides temporary shelter for children up to age 6 whose families cannot care for them; it works with the parents to prepare them to reunite their family, but also with the government foster-care system and adoption service. However, much of its work today is as a research and documentation center, monitoring and developing programs for the health and education of children.
Pope Francis’ remarks about adoption were off-the-cuff. He also had a prepared speech for the occasion and handed a copy to the institute’s director.
In the text, the pope focused on the obligation of the entire community to give every child the best care possible.
Today, he said, “we must take care of many rejected children, robbed of their childhood and their future; minors who face desperate journeys to escape from hunger or war; children who never see the light of day because their mothers are subjected to economic, social and cultural conditioning that pushes them to renounce that wonderful gift that is the birth of a child.”