Pope Francis welcoming the children attending the summer kids camp at the Vatican  (Vatican Media)

By Amedeo Lomonaco

August 4 2022

At the conclusion of the General Audience, Pope Francis offers special greetings to children participating in this year’s summer kids camp offered by the Vatican, after meeting earlier with animators and staff of the summer camp.

“I greet the children of the Summer Youth Camp in the Vatican. They have been quiet until now but you can hear them now. They are accompanied by their parents and the camp animators, whom I thank for their precious work. I wish to thank Fr. Franco, the ‘spiritual soul’ of the Vatican, who as a good Salesian was able to plant this seed in setting up this summer camp now in its third year.” 

Those words of Pope Francis at the end of the Wednesday General Audience in the Paul VI Hall meant “a great deal” to Fr. Franco Fontana.

He is the chaplain and coordinator of the summer initiative which for three years now has welcomed youth of various ages, children of Vatican employees, for summertime activities.

The summer camp also includes moments of prayer and reflection. It takes place in Vatican City in designated areas equipped for recreational and sports activities.

In the midst of the children’s talking and playing, Fr. Franco shared with Vatican News his joy upon receiving the Pope’s greetings, as well as his “worry” during the General Audience. “I wanted the children to keep quiet throughout the Audience catechesis, as they had been instructed to do so before.”

The Salesian religious told of “an even more beautiful moment” that took place before the Audience.

“The Pope received the animators in a small room and addressed a special greeting to them, thanking them and above all encouraging them on how this passion for education must animate them throughout their lives.”

Translation of the interview with Fr. Franco Fontana

Q: The Pope recalled your commitment, as a Salesian, to the preparation and organisation of the summer camp. Would you describe it as a concern for children and young people, a way to unite past and future, memory and prophecy?

Three years ago the Pope asked about doing something here, especially during the time of the pandemic. The idea was to create an outdoor summer camp. Despite the difficulties, we started with this type of activity, which continues to grow.

The first year we had 150 young people and this year it has increased to 230 participants for five weeks. This commitment is made possible with the collaboration of religious and lay people who help create a family atmosphere, a space where the young people feel at home.

Q: The Centre is now in its last week. How have these weeks been going?

The experience has included moments of play and prayer. For each group every week we had a prayer adapted for them: for the green group, the celebration of the Word; for the yellow group, Mass; for the blue group, confession.

These are the colours that correspond to the various age groups. Then fun, lots of it, and educational moments, and entertainment…helping them dream for the future as part of the summer camp experience.

Q: The theme of dreaming for the future marked the camp activities. Pope Francis has often invited young people to dream….

We also call on them to dream. We invite these young people to dream big and not let themselves be overcome by situations of discouragement that some families may be experiencing.

Vatican News