“Little great missionaries, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus”

European Missionary Childhood Conference

Joaquim Magalhães de Castro

Coming from 25 European countries, forty-three delegates participated in the European Missionary Childhood Conference (CEME), which began on April 7th in Bucharest and ended on the 13th of that month, with a final stop in the small town of Blaj.

Organized by the Discalced Carmelite Fathers of the Snagov monastery, near Bucharest, the meeting allowed participants to share their experiences, deepen the theme of the meeting – centered on missionary cooperation – and learn directly about the activities of the Pontifical Society for Missionary Childhood in Romania. This work, founded on May 19, 1843, by Dom Carlos Forbin Janson, Bishop of the French city of Nancy, aims to “raise the universal missionary spirit in children”, developing in them “protagonism in solidarity and evangelization”, and , through them, in the entire People of God.

The need to promote missionary activity among children would be motivated by the letters and news that missionaries, especially those based in China, wrote telling the sad and harsh reality of children in those regions and at that time: illnesses, mortality, illiteracy, and abandonment.

The Work of Missionary Childhood is, therefore, a service “in favor of the formation and missionary communion of children and their leaders”, so that they cooperate in universal evangelization, especially of children from all over the world, and in solidarity, striving for the sharing of material goods. The designation ‘Missionary Childhood’ originates from the devotion to the childhood of the Baby Jesus, very present throughout France.

Pope John Paul II called the children of Missionary Childhood “little great missionaries, in the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus”, following the spirit of the Second Vatican Council which declared that the Pontifical Mission Societies should occupy a leading place, “as they constitute a privileged means of dissemination among Catholics, from childhood, of the truly universal and missionary sense” (Ad Gentes 38).

Regarding the recent CEME, said Father Eugen Blaj, director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Romania: “It was a very interesting and enriching experience, from which we all learned a lot. For example, we learn that in some countries the spirit of missionary childhood is disseminated in schools. In other words, children learn about the activities of the Pontifical Mission Societies through the textbooks they use in religious education classes. These are initiatives that we would like to propose and implement here in Romania”.

CEME was attended by the Metropolitan Archbishop of Bucharest, Monsignor Aurel Perca, who celebrated mass on April 9, in the monastery church. He thanked all participants for their commitment and encouraged them in their mission. A group of missionary children from different parishes in Bucharest attended the Eucharist. Some of them, as recalled by Sister Roberta Tremarelli, general secretary of the Society of the Holy Childhood of Rome, also present at the event, “have been part of the Missionary Childhood since the establishment of the Pontifical Missionary Societies in Romania”. That night, after dinner, the little missionaries presented a cultural program and talked with Sister Roberta and the other participants.

The following day, the Romanian Jesuit Marius Taloș presented a profound reflection on the “fundamental importance of cooperation” and the participants had the opportunity to learn about some realities of the local Church and visit several “cultural and ecclesiastical sites”, as well as the Apostolic Nunciature of Bucharest, where they were received by Monsignor Tuomo T. Vimpari, advisor to that entity. The delegates also visited the three cathedrals in the Romanian capital: the Orthodox Cathedral, the Catholic Cathedral of the Latin Rite and the Greek-Catholic Cathedral, the smallest cathedral in the world.

Participants in the Missionary Childhood Conference in Europe visited the city of Sinaia and the Marian sanctuary of Sumuleu-Ciuc, where Pope Francis celebrated mass during his visit to Romania in 2019; the program also included a visit to the State University of Alba Iulia (where they were received by the rector) and the Greek-Catholic community of Barbu Lautaru, a small neighborhood in the city of Blaj, where they met a group of gypsy missionary children.

On the last day of their stay on Romanian soil, CEME participants attended mass in the Greek-Catholic Cathedral of Blaj, celebrated in the Byzantine rite by auxiliary bishop Cristian Crisan. During the ceremony (animated by gypsy missionary children), Dom Crisan conveyed to all participants the greetings and blessing of Cardinal Lucian Muresan, head of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church, and prayed that “your activity as missionaries in the name of the Lord Jesus and as lay people committed to the service of the Ig rule and be credible to God and bear fruit in abundance.”

On the last day of CEME, participants decided that the next meeting will be held in Slovakia, in 2026.