Making the world a better place for everyone starts with prayer and little steps like saying hello, sorry or thank you, Pope Francis said in a letter to the world's children.

"Our world will change if we all begin with these little things, without being ashamed to take small steps, one at a time," he wrote in the letter that was released March 2.

The letter included an invitation for the youngsters to participate in the first World Children's Day meeting in Rome May 25-26. At a news conference after the letter was published, organizers said 57,000 children from 60 countries already had signed up and they hoped 100,000 children ages 6-12 would attend the opening event at Rome's Olympic Stadium and Mass with Pope Francis the next day in St. Peter's Square.

In his letter, Pope Francis told children that they are "a source of joy for your parents and your families, but also for our human family and for the Church, in which each of us is like a link in a great chain stretching from the past to the future and covering the whole earth."

Children also remind everyone of their need and desire "to grow and flourish," and that all people are someone's sons and daughters and are brothers and sisters, he said. "We would not be alive unless others brought us into this world, nor could we grow without having others to love and from whom to receive love."

"The fact that we are small reminds us that we are also frail and need one another as members of one body," the pope wrote.

Pope Francis explained to the children that he chose the Bible passage, "Behold, I make all things new," as the theme for World Children's Day because it is a reminder that to make the world a better place, people need to be united with Jesus and with others.

"With Jesus, we can dream of the renewal of our human family and work for a more fraternal society that cares for our common home," the pope wrote.

Sharing "a special secret" with the children, Pope Francis told them that if they really want to be happy, they need to pray every day "because prayer connects us directly to God" and "fills our hearts with light and warmth."

And even the youngest people can understand that they cannot be happy all alone "because our joy increases to the extent that we share it," he said. "Joy is born of gratitude for the gifts we have received and which we share in turn, and it grows in our relationships with others."

"When we keep the blessings we have received to ourselves, or throw tantrums to get this or that gift, we forget that the greatest gift that we possess is ourselves, one another: all of us, together, are God's gift," the letter said. "Other gifts are nice, but only if they help us to be together. If we don't use them for that purpose, we will always end up being unhappy; they will never be enough."

"Think of your friends and how great it is to spend time with them: at home, at school, in the parish and the playground, everywhere," Pope Francis wrote. "Playing, singing, discovering new things, having fun, everyone being together and excluding no one. Friendship is wonderful and it grows only in this way: through sharing and forgiving, with patience, courage, creativity and imagination, without fear and without prejudice."

In preparation for World Children's Day, the pope asked them to pray the Our Father every morning and every evening with their families and to think about the words.

Jesus, he said, "is calling us and he wants us to join actively with him, on this World Children's Day, to become builders of a new, more humane, just and peaceful world."

"Jesus, who offered himself on the Cross to gather all of us together in love, who conquered death and reconciled us with the Father, wants to continue his work in the Church through us," the pope wrote. "Think about this, especially those of you who are preparing to receive First Communion."