The pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need is this year celebrating the 40th anniversary of its children’s Bible, God Speaks to His Children.
Since its release, more than 51 million copies have been distributed across the globe in 189 languages.
“It is beyond human understanding just how many children as well as adults have opened themselves to God through the children’s Bible,” the executive president of the foundation, Dr Thomas Heine-Geldern, explained when asked about the anniversary. He pointed out that for many families living in the world’s poorest regions, the children’s Bible is the only book that they will ever own.
“The letters we have received over the past 40 years, in which children, families, bishops and pastoral workers have expressed their thanks for the children’s Bible, bear witness to the deep longing for God that this book continues to relieve today,” Dr Heine-Geldern said.
Divided into 99 short chapters, God Speaks to His Children retells the most important texts of the Old and New Testament in a way that is easy for children to understand. The stories in the current edition of the children’s Bible were written by German theologian Eleonore Beck and brightly illustrated by the Spanish religious sister Miren-Sorne Gomez. The illustrations have become popular in religious instruction and catechesis.
The “father” of the children’s Bible was the Dutch Norbetine, Fr Werenfried van Straaten (1913-2003), the founder of Aid to the Church in Need. When the United Nations proclaimed 1979 as the “Year of the Child”, this became the impetus for the realisation of a long-cherished idea of Fr Werenfried.
He wrote at the time: “Children need something like a children’s Bible so that the image of Christ will become a living one in their hearts. The Church often does not have the means to acquire a children’s Bible written in the native language. Or the Church is being persecuted and is not allowed to publish literature of this kind. Many children are so poor that they cannot afford to buy a book. And so we would like to give them the Bible as a gift.”
Aid to the Church in Need continues to provide children’s Bibles to the world’s poorest children. Details: www.aidtochurch.org/childsbible