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SPECIAL: Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road

6/20/2007 - 5:55 AM PST

(Page 17 of 18)

of empathy and trust that gives them access to educators and day centres aimed at promoting essential conditions so that the children may live in a dignified fashion.

There are also support initiatives to meet children's basic needs: canteens, cloakrooms, social and healthcare assistance, and education and training facilities, namely kindergartens, schools and vocational training courses. Residential welcome centres have also been set up, where education and formation are provided, but above all leverage is made on human accompaniment with additional support from psycho-educational disciplines.

126. In some cases, spiritual accompaniment, based on the Gospel, takes place within the scope of activities aimed at reintegrating children within their original families or in new adoptive communities.

Finally, we should mention the wider-ranging activities that reach civil and ecclesial society, not merely to inform, but also to raise awareness and involve people, above all in the work of preventing the phenomenon and supporting children who have returned to their natural environment. Moreover, there are training and refresher courses for workers and volunteers, aimed at guaranteeing a high degree of professionalism.

II. Issues regarding methods

A multi-dimensional approach

127. As far as method is concerned, the primary objective is integration of the various initiatives: teamwork for all workers; parallel commitment of support for parents if they are can be contacted and get involved in collaboration; reintegration of children in schooling and vocational training; building and extension of friendship networks, including beyond the welcome centres; sports and recreational activities and those that encourage children to take on active roles of responsibility and be creative.

128. Commitment with street children is certainly not easy, and may sometimes appear inconclusive and frustrating, which may lead to the temptation to give up and withdraw. In these cases, it is necessary to hold fast to the fundamental motivations that have driven those involved to undertake this well-deserving work. For believers, these are first of all motivations of faith.

However, it is worth focusing attention on people who have had a very positive experience, and those who rightly maintain that the work produces satisfying results in many, and sometimes the majority, of cases. With prudence and patience this should be confirmed over time, with, for example, lasting rehabilitation and normalisation of an individual after five years. A relapse may occur, with a return to the street, but children who were initially irresponsive to the work of educators may also get on the path leading to recovery and the values that were previously proposed to them without success, later on.

III. The task of evangelisation and human promotion

A specific pastoral care

129. Obviously, greater awareness of the seriousness of the problem is needed and a more systematic commitment to deal with it, including in the ecclesial sphere where humanitarian initiatives in favour of street children should be accompanied by a general primary task of evangelisation. It is therefore a good idea to formulate a specific pastoral care for these children, chracterized by the proposal of new strategies and means aimed at puttiong them in contact with the liberating and healing power of Jesus, a friend, brother and teacher. Qualified pastoral ministry of first or new evangelisation is necessary and irreplaceable for recovering and enhancing the religious dimension, which is fundamental in all people.

130. Educators and pastoral workers stand before a twofold path and means of intervention. The first is directly aimed at a religious and specifically evangelical proposal, so that children, once they have entered into this area of faith and human values may free themselves from the conditioning and instability that brought them to the street. The second regards rehabilitation of children in order to give them back balance and normality, and full human identity.

This patient work is accompanied by religious proposals and references, insofar as this is compatible with the conditions of the children themselves, and the country where they live. These itineraries do not oppose each other, because they may both turn out to be effective.

131. The religious proposal is fundamental within the comprehensive picture of an intervention for the purpose of rehabilitation. The problem shared by a large portion of "street people" is not just indigence or drug addiction, alcoholism or deviance, violence or criminality, AIDS or prostitution, but rather the terrible evil of the "death of the soul". All too often, even though in the full bloom of youth, these people are "dead inside".

A pastoral care of meeting, a new ...

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