Record numbers join rosary campaign

RESPONDING TO THE APPEAL by Pope Francis, youngsters from no fewer than 136 different countries and on every continent took part in this year’s annual “A million children praying the Rosary” initiative, sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). It took place Oct. 18 and 19. “This year’s participation marks a historic record, ever since the beginning of the initiative in 2005,” said Father Martin Barta, the spiritual assistant to ACN International.

Poland and Mexico were the two countries in which the response to the initiative was the most widespread. They were followed by Slovakia, India and the Philippines.

The central idea of the initiative is to pray for peace and unity throughout the world. This was the principal focus of the prayers of the children in Maiduguri, in northeast Nigeria, an area that has suffered greatly from the attacks by Boko Haram. As they prayed, the children held up their own messages and drawings, praying for an end to the violence and for all persecuted Christians. This was also the principal prayer of the 517 children who joined in Armenia, a country that is engulfed in war at this very moment.

From Minsk, the capital of Belarus, another country afflicted by violence and unrest for many weeks now, the children also joined in this worldwide prayer for peace and unity, as reported by Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the archbishop of Minsk, who currently finds himself exiled from his country, having been blocked from returning by the government.

On the Plains of Niniveh in Iraq, a large group of children gathered in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary in the town of Teleskuf, also praying the Rosary for peace in the world, for all suffering people and for an end to the coronavirus pandemic.

The suffering of the victims of the pandemic was likewise one intention of the Rosary prayed in Nicaragua, from the monastery of the contemplative Albertinian monks in Estelí, in the northwest of the country, where just a few weeks ago the founder of their congregation died from Covid-19. The children prayed “for all those affected by the virus and for the health of all people.”

“On account of the pandemic, which is affecting so many people, the children in some countries were unable to gather in large groups, so they prayed in the family. We have seen wonderful videos of children in Beirut, Lebanon and in Carúpano, in Venezuela, where the children were praying in their own homes,” said Father Barta.

Hundreds of schools all over Spain, in Britain and in Slovakia supported the initiative. Meanwhile, in South Korea, the children at the diocesan school in the capital Seoul joined the Rosary on Oct. 22r, since they were unable to participate earlier owing to government healthcare restrictions.

One of the most symbolic moments of the campaign was the Rosary prayed by children at the shrine of Fatima in Portugal. This Rosary, transmitted live on many different Catholic channels, enabled thousands of Catholics and other believers throughout the world to unite themselves spiritually with this initiative.

“We have received hundreds of testimonies from all over the world, and we are delighted with the results. Although the online registration system set up to enable families and groups to register cut off at 509,771 participants. But we also know of thousands of people who were unable to register with the website because the page was hit by a cyber-attack just two days before the event,” Maria Lozano, head of press and communications at ACN International, explained.

“It’s hard to understand why anybody would want to prevent children from praying, yet on the other hand it shows that somebody is afraid of the power of these prayers, which ‘can change the world’, as Padre Pio once said,” she added.

“For years now many people have been receiving information from ACN through the post or otherwise distributed within their own countries, especially in Africa, because they don’t have easy access to the internet. This was the first time we set up a webpage for people to register on. The initiative has been a real success,” said Father Barta.

The original campaign for “A million children praying the Rosary” originated in Caracas, Venezuela in 2005, with a small group of children who had gathered to pray the rosary at a roadside shrine. Some of the adults present remembered the words of Padre Pio, who said, “When a million children pray the Rosary, the world will change.”