The International children’s prayer campaign “A Million Children praying the Rosary”, which has been supported for several years now by Aid to the Church in Need, has had a particular impact in the country of Benin in West Africa. The campaign goes back to an idea of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, who in some way foresaw the great spiritual potential of these little ones when he said, “If a million children were to pray the Rosary, the world would change.” This year, for instance in the diocese Natitingou in Benin, the children there have proved him right.

At nine in the morning, in every one of the Catholic schools in the diocese of Natitingou in northwest Benin, you would have seen hundreds of children, aged between two and thirteen, gathered in groups to recite the Rosary – their aim this year being to pray for the children of Syria, the innocent victims of a seemingly endless war.

Thanks to the now well-established initiative “A Million Children Praying the Rosary” they were united in this with hundreds of thousands of other children all over the world who had likewise responded to the appeal launched by ACN. However, in Benin these groups of schoolchildren had produced an effect of remarkable unity – for here there were not only Catholic children praying at the same time, but also children belonging to various other religions, including Protestants and Muslims. All of them together praying for the grace of unity and peace in the world.

At the bilingual Holy Family Catholic primary school in the diocese Natitingou, the children gathered at the Catholic cathedral Cathédrale de l’Immaculée Conception around the Marian shrine of Our Lady of Atakora. Together with their teachers, they began with a Marian hymn and meditated on all five Glorious Mysteries. Each decade was interspersed with joyful singing and praises of Our Blessed Lady. Then afterwards, Father Servais Yantoukoua, the diocesan chaplain to the children’s apostolate movement in Benin (Mouvement d’Apostolat Des Enfants du Bénin), read from a letter specially written to the children for this occasion by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the President of ACN. He quoted the Cardinal’s words to them, saying that through prayer “we can build a society in which justice and peaceful coexistence are possible”.

Father Servais then went on to explain to the children the meaning of this prayer and the importance of unity and peace in the world, emphasising the example set by the three children who witnessed the apparition of Our Lady in Fatima, Portugal.

The Catholic diocese of Natitingou was fully behind this initiative and supported it via its children’s missionary committee. Afterwards the children returned home “conscious of the fact that they need to become spokesmen for the Mother of God in this peace-starved world”, as Father Servais put it.

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