Recalling his visit in January to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, the Pope recalled that while he saw children filled with enthusiasm and joy, he also saw many that lived in "undignified conditions."
"In fact, a society can be judged by how they treat children," he said.
The Pope said that children are a reminder that in the first moments of life, mankind is completely dependent on others. Reflecting on the Christmas season, the Holy Father said that the crèche is a reminder that even the Son of God was not spared this important step.
"It is the mystery that we contemplate every Christmas. The crèche is the icon that communicates this reality in the most simple and direct way."
Jesus, he continued, also sees the importance of returning to the simplicity of "the little ones"
"Therefore, children are themselves a richness for humanity and for the Church, because they constantly recall the necessary conditions to enter the Kingdom of God: that of not considering ourselves self-sufficient, but in need of help, of love, of forgiveness," he said.
'We Are All Sons and Daughters'
Continuing his catechesis, Pope Francis said that children are a reminder that we are all sons and daughters, no matter what age we reach.
This identity of sons and daughters serves as a reminder that the first gift received is the gift of life.
"At times we risk living our lives forgetting about this, as if we are the masters of our existence, and instead we are radically dependent," he said.
"In reality, it is a great cause for joy to feel that in every age of life, in every situation, in every social condition, we are and remain sons [and daughters]."
The 78 year old Pontiff went on to say that only through the presence of children can mankind be reminded of this fact.
To Smile and To Cry
Pope Francis also said that children allow mankind to view humanity in a spontaneous, yet honest way. Their world view, he said, is still pure and not yet inclined to malice and duplicity.
"Children are not diplomatic!" he exclaimed" They say what they feel, they say what they see, directly! Many times it causes difficulty for parents."
"They might say: 'I don't like that one because he is ugly' in front of other people. But children say what they see. They are not duplicitous person, they have not leaned yet this science of duplicity that we, adults, have learned."
In a lighthearted moment, the Pope spoke on the reaction of children who he greets. Some smile, others "see me dressed in white, and think that I am a doctor that's about to give them a vaccine and they cry."
This ability to both smile and cry, he continued, are things that adults usually "block". Many times, our capacity to smile is artificial, whereas children can either spontaneously smile or cry.
"Children can teach us once again to smile and cry," he said. "But we must ask ourselves regularly: do I smile spontaneously with freshness, with love or is my smile artificial? Do I still cry or have I lost the capacity to cry? These are two very human questions that children teach us.
Concluding his catechesis, Pope Francis called on the faithful present to follow Christ's call to "become like children". He also said that a society becomes "sad and gray" without the presence of children.
"And when we see that the birth rate barely arrives to 1%, we can say that this society is gray because it has remained without children," he concluded.