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Pope Francis’ Message to the 36th Annual Meeting of Friendship Among Peoples

“Only the initiative of God the Creator can fill the measure of the heart; and He has come to encounter us; to allow himself be found by us as a friend is found”

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Here is the translation of the papal message to Bishop Francesco Lambiasi of Rimini on the occasion of the 36th Annual Meeting of Friendship Among Peoples. The message was sent on the Pope’s behalf by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State.

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From the Vatican, August 17, 2015


To His Most Revered Excellency


Bishop of Rimini

Most Reverend Excellency,

In the name of His Holiness Pope Francis and my own name, I address a cordial greeting to you, to the organizers and participants in the 36th Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples. The thought-provoking and poetic expression chosen as theme of this year — “What is this lack a lack of, oh heart, of which all of a sudden you are full?” (Mario Luzi) – puts the accent on the heart that is in each one of us, and that Saint Augustine described as a “restless heart,” which is never content and seeks something that lives up to its expectation. It is a search that is expressed in questions on the meaning of life and death, on love, on work, on justice and on happiness.

However, to be worthy of finding an answer one must consider in a serious way one’s humanity, always cultivating this healthy restlessness. In this commitment – Pope Francis tells us – “it is possible to take recourse simply to some frequent human experiences, such as the joy of a new meeting, disappointments, the fear of solitude, compassion for the pain of others, insecurity in face of the future, concern for a dear person” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 155).

We see emerge here one of the great questions of today’s world: in the face of so many partial answers, which offer only “infinite falsehoods” (Benedict XVI) and which produce a strange anaesthesia, how can we give voice to the questions that all bear within them? In front of the numbness of life, how can the conscience be reawakened?  A fascinating way opens for the Church, as was the case at the beginning of Christianity, when men toiled in life without the courage, the strength or the seriousness to express the decisive questions. And, as happened to Saint Paul in the Areopagus, to talk about God to one who has reduced, censured or forgotten his “whys?” results in a strangeness that seems far from real life with its dramas and trials.

Therefore, none of us can initiate a dialogue on God if we do not succeed in nourishing the smoking lamp that burns in the heart, without accusing anyone of his limitations – which are also ours – and without taking, but receiving and listening to anyone. The task of Christians – as Pope Francis likes to repeat – is to begin processes more than to occupy spaces (cf. Ibid., 222) And the first step is, in fact, to reawaken the meaning of that lack of which the heart is full and that frequently lies, consequently under the weight of efforts and dashed hopes. But “the heart” is, and is always seeking.

Today’s drama consists of the imminent danger of the denial of the identity and dignity of the human person. A worrying ideological colonization reduces the perception of genuine needs of the heart to offer limited answers that do not consider the breadth of the search for love, truth, beauty, and justice that is in each one. We are all children of this time and we suffer the influence of a mentality that offers new values and opportunities, but that can also condition, limit and spoil the heart with alienating proposals that extinguish the thirst for God. But the heart is not content because, as Pope Benedict XVI said, speaking to young people at San Marino, “it is a window open to the infinite” (June 19, 2011). Why do we have to suffer and die in the end? Why is there evil and contradiction?  Is it worthwhile to live? Can one still hope in face of a “Third World War fought in pieces” and with so many brothers persecuted and killed because of their faith? Does is still make sense to love, to work, to make sacrifices and to commit oneself? Where is my life going to end and that of persons that we never want to lose? What must we do in the world? These are questions that all ask themselves, young people and adults, believers and non-believers. Sooner or later, at least once in life, because of a trial or a joyful event, reflecting on the future of one’s children or on the usefulness of one’s work, each one finds himself in need of reckoning with one or more of these questions. Not even the most callous is able to extirpate them entirely from his existence.

Life is not an absurd desire, lack is not the sign that we were born “by mistake,” but on the contrary it is the bell that alerts us that our nature is made for great things. As the Servant of God Monsignor Giussani wrote, “human needs constitute the reference, the implicit affirmation of an ultimate answer that is beyond the existential modalities that can be experienced. If the theory of a “beyond” was eliminated, those needs would be unnaturally suffocated” (“The Religious Sense,” Milan, 1997, 157). The myth of Ulysses speaks to us of the nostos algos, the nostalgia that can find satisfaction only in an infinite reality. Therefore God, the infinite Mystery, bent over our nothingness thirsty for him, and offered the answer that all await without realizing it, while they search for it in success, in money, in power, in drugs of all kinds, in the affirmation of their momentary desires. Only the initiative of God the Creator can fill the measure of the heart; and He has come to encounter us; to allow himself be found by us as a friend is found. And thus we can rest even in a stormy sea, because we are certain of his presence. Pope Francis has said: “Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, if it is destroyed by vices, by drugs or any other thing, God is in his life. […] Even if the life of a person is a terrain full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. It is necessary to trust God.” (La Civilta Cattolica, September 19, 2013, 470).

With this year’s theme, the Meeting can cooperate in an essential task of the Church, that is, “not to agree that someone be content with little, but that one can say fully: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20)” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 160), because Jesus’ “is the announcement that responds to the infinite longing that is in every human heart” (Ibid., 1650. Jesus “came to show us, to make visible the love that God has for us. […] an active, real love. […] a love that heals, forgives, raises up again and cures; a love that comes close and restores dignity; a dignity that we can lose in many ways and forms. But Jesus is obstinate in this: he has given his life for this, to restore to us our lost identity” (Pope Francis, Address in the Center of Re-education at Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, July 10, 2015). Here is the contribution that the Christian faith offers all and that the Meeting can witness first of all with the life of the persons that realize it.

Therefore, the Holy Father hopes that the organizers and volunteers of the Meeting will go to meet all, sustained by the desire to propose with strength, beauty and simplicity the Good News of the love of God, who also today bends over our lack to fill it with the water of life that flows from the risen Jesus. He asks that one pray for his ministry and sends to you, Excellency, and to all the participants in the Meeting his heartfelt Apostolic Blessing. In adding also my best wishes, I take advantage of the circumstance to express my best personal regards.

Pietro Cardinal Parolin

Secretary of State

[Original text: Italian]


[Translation by ZENIT]

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