L'Osservatore Romano

Text of Pope's Q-and-A With Italian Youth

“Peace builds bridges; hatred is the builder of walls. You must choose in life: either to build bridges or to build walls”

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At 8:35 pm Wednesday, from the archbishop’s residence in Krakow where the Holy Father is staying for his apostolic visit, the Pope was connected via live video with Italian young people present at the WYD, gathered in Saint John Paul II’s Shrine in Krakow.
The Pope answered the questions of three youths.
Here is a ZENIT translation of the Pope’s dialogue in the connection with Italian young people.
Presentation: Good evening, Holiness. First of all thank you, for finding the time – although you have just arrived in Krakow – to be connected with us. You did not give up being with us here this evening. Thank you, Holy Father. There are youngsters here that, in the name of the 90,000 Italians present at Krakow, would like to ask you some questions, and the young people are here. Please.
After the railway incident of July 12, we are afraid to take the train. Every day I take the train to go to the University, and that day I wasn’t on the train by pure chance. Every day I sit in the first carriages, and there I met and greeted Luciano, one of the engine drivers that, unfortunately, lost his life in the incident.  In those trains we feel at home, but now we’re afraid. I would like to ask: how can we return to normality? How can we beat this fear and continue, be happy again also on those trains, which are our trains, our second home?
Pope Francis:
What happened to you is a wound; in the incident, some were wounded in the body, and you were wounded in your spirit, in your heart, and the wound is called fear. You suffered a shock, a shock that doesn’t let you be well, that hurts you. However, this shock also gives you the opportunity to overcome yourself, to go beyond. And as always happens in life, when we have been wounded, bruises or scars remain. Life is full of scars, life is full of scars, it’s full of them. And with this, there will always be the memory of Luciano, of that other, of that other … who now is no longer because he is lacking from the incident. And, every day that you take the train, you will feel the trace – let’s say it thus – of that wound, of that scar, of that which makes you suffer. And you are young, but life is full of this … And wisdom, to learn to be a wise man, a wise woman, is in fact this: to carry forward the beautiful things of life and the awful things of life. There are things that can’t go forward, and there are things that are very beautiful. But the contrary also happens: how many young people like you are not capable of carrying their life forward with the joy of beautiful things, and prefer to let themselves go, fall under the domination of drugs, or let themselves be defeated by life? In the end, the game is like this: either you win or life defeats you! You must win in life, it’s better! And do so with courage, also with pain. And when there is joy, do so with joy, because joy carries you forward and saves you from the awful sickness: of becoming neurotic. Please, not this!
Dear Pope Francis, my name is Andrea, I am 15 and I come from Bergamo. I arrived in Italy when I was 9, hence some six years ago. The kids of my class began to make fun of me, given that I had just arrived, with quite offensive words. In the beginning I didn’t understand Italian well. Then, once I began to understand it, they remained truly bad, but I didn’t answer: I did not want to lower myself to their level. I spent so many years like this, until at the end of the third year of middle school, when they had gone beyond the limit with all the offensive messages on the social <networks>, for which I felt practically useless,  I decided to put an end to it, because in my opinion at that moment I didn’t count anymore and felt marginalized by all, from my hamlet … And so I decided to put an end to it and tried to commit suicide. I didn’t succeed and so went to the hospital. And there I understood that I wasn’t that sick person, that I wasn’t the one in need of care, that I didn’t deserve to be shut in the hospital. They were the ones who had erred, they the ones who were in need of being cured, not me. So I picked myself up and decided not to put an end to it because it wasn’t worthwhile, because I could be strong. And in fact I’m well now and am truly strong. And I can, on one hand, thank them for having treated me so badly because although I’m now strong, somewhat also thanks to them, because they put me in that situation. I became strong because I believed in myself, in my parents, and so I believed I could get over it, and if fact I did so. And I am here, and I’m proud to be here.
I would like to ask you: given that in any case I have forgiven them somewhat, because I don’t want to hate anyone, I have forgiven them somewhat, however, I’m still not well. I would like to ask you: how should I forgive these persons? What should I do to forgive them for all that they did to me?
Pope Francis:
Thank you for your testimony. You speak of a very common problem among children and also among persons who aren’t children: cruelty. But look, children are also cruel sometimes, and they have that capacity to wound you where they will do the most hurt: to wound your heart, to wound your dignity, also to wound your nationality, as is your case, no? You didn’t understand Italian well and they made fun of you with the tongue, with words … Cruelty is a human attitude that is in fact at the base of all wars, all of them. Cruelty doesn’t let the other grow; cruelty kills the other, cruelty also kills the other person’s good name. When a person gossips against another, this is cruel: it’s cruel because it destroys the person’s reputation. But you know, I like to say an expression when I speak of this cruelty of the tongue: gossip is a terrorism; it’s the terrorism of gossip. Cruelty of the tongue, or the kind you felt, is like throwing a bomb that destroys you, or destroys someone, and the one who throws it is not destroyed. This is terrorism; it’s something we must defeat. How is this defeated? You have chosen the right way: by silence and patience you finished with that very beautiful word: forgiveness. But it’s not easy to forgive, because one can say: “Yes, I forgive, but I don’t forget.” And you will always bear this cruelty with you, this terrorism of bad words, of words that wound and that try to throw you out of the community. There is a word in Italian that I didn’t know. When I came here to Italy the first times, I learnt it: non-EEC: they throw you out of the community; they don’t receive you., which is something we must fight a lot. You were courageous! You were very courageous in this. But it’s necessary to fight against this terrorism of the tongue, against this terrorism of gossip, of insults, of throwing people out, yes, with insults or saying to them things that hurt the heart. Can one forgive completely? It’s a grace we must ask of the Lord. We, on are own, cannot: we make the effort, you made it, but forgiveness is a grace the Lord gives you, to forgive your enemy, to forgive the one who has wounded you, who has hurt you. When Jesus says to us in the Gospel” He who strikes you on the cheek, give him the other,” which means this: to leave in the Lord’s hands this wisdom of forgiveness, which is a grace. However, we must do all we can on our part to forgive. I thank you for your testimony. And there is also another attitude that goes in fact against this terrorism of the tongue, whether gossip, insults or all this: it’s the attitude of meekness. To be quiet, to treat others well, to not answer with some other bad thing. Like Jesus: Jesus was meek of heart – meekness. And we live in a world where to one insult we respond with another, this is usual. We insult one another, and we lack meekness. We must ask for the grace of meekness, meekness of heart. And there is also the grace that opens the way to forgiveness. I thank you for your testimony.
Dear Pope Francis, we are three boys and a priest of 350 people from Verona that left to come here to the WYD, but they had to interrupt their trip at Monaco last Friday, after the attack we all experienced personally, in as much as we were in fact there in those hours. We were told to go back home, we were obliged to go back home, because we wanted to continue our trip but weren’t allowed. Fortunately, once we went back, we were given the possibility to return here,  and we took it up with much joy, with much hope. After all that happened to us, after the fear, we asked ourselves – and we want to ask you: how can we, young people, live and spread peace in this world that is so full of hatred?
Pope Francis:
You said two words that are key to understand everything: peace and hatred. Peace builds bridges; hatred is the builder of walls. You must choose in life: either to build bridges or to build walls. Walls divide and hatred grows: when there is division, hatred grows. Bridges unite, and when there is a bridge, hatred can go away, because I can hear the other, I can speak with the other. I like to think and say that we have, in the possibilities of every day, the capacity to build a human bridge. When you shake the hand of a friend, of a person, you build a human bridge. You build a bridge. Instead, when you strike another, insult another, you build a wall. Hatred always grows with walls. Sometimes it happens that you want to be a bridge and you are left with your hand stretched out and the other side doesn’t take it: these are the humiliations that we must suffer to do something good. But always build bridges. And you have come here: you were stopped and sent back home; then you made a wager for the bridge and to return once again: this is always <the right> attitude. Is there a difficulty that impedes me something? I go back and <then> I go forward; I go back and go forward. This is what we must do: build bridges, not let ourselves fall down, not go that way: “But, I can’t …” No, always look for the way to build bridges. You are there: build bridges with your hands, all of you! Take your hands … see. I want to see many human bridges … See, like this: raise your hands high. It’s so. This is the program of life: to build bridges, human bridges. Thank you.
Thank you, Holy Father, because this evening you have given us an extraordinary gift! Thank you, Holy Father. Truly, thank you.
Pope Francis:
Thanks to you and may the Lord bless you. Pray for me!
[Original text: Italian]  [Translation by ZENIT]

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