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Pope's Address to Youth of Italian National Civil Service

“Through your service, you are called to carry out a critical function … which shows how possible it is to think and act in a different way”

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On Saturday, Pope Francis received in audience the young people of the National Civil Service, 15 years after the promulgation of the law that the Service instituted in Italy.
Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to those present.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning.
We must not forget what the Lord Minister said: social protection. The earthquake we have beside us … We must go forward; protect those people and protect all those in danger of a human earthquake, which comes from within, who are alone, abandoned, rejected, in this culture that so likes to dispose of people. Thank you, Lord Minister, for this and let’s hope that your challenge is taken up by all of us. Thank you.
And I am happy for this meeting, 15 years after the promulgation of the law that the National Civil Service instituted in Italy. I greet the Minister, the Under-Secretary and the other institutional personalities, as well as the leaders of the promoting entities of the projects and the workers that follow them. My greeting goes especially to you, dear young people, who have chosen to dedicate a part of your time and your life to a volunteer project of social promotion. The gratuitousness of volunteers, even for a specific time, is richness not only for society and for those who enjoy your work, but also for yourselves and for your human maturation.
You are a precious force, a dynamic force of the country: your contribution is indispensable to bring about the good of society, taking account especially of the weakest subjects. The plan of a solidaristic society is the aim of every civil community that wishes to be egalitarian and fraternal. This is betrayed every time that one assists passively in the growth of inequality among the different social sectors or among the nations of the world. When assistance is reduced to the weakest band without other forms of protection being guaranteed; when dangerous logics of rearmament and precious resources are invested for the acquisition of armaments — a real present plague — are accepted, or again when the poor <man> becomes a peril and instead of giving him a hand he is relegated to his misery.
All these attitudes represent a scar of our society and of its culture, putting in it criteria and practices marked by indifference <and> oppression, which render life poorer, not only of the one who is forgotten or discriminated, but also of the one who forgets or discriminates, who ends by remaining withdrawn in himself and debarring himself from the flesh of brothers, which is the imperative way to find the good. Through your service, you are called to carry out a critical function, in face of these prospects that are contrary to the human, and a prophetic function, which shows how possible it is to think and act in a different way.
Among the different areas of intervention of the Civil Service’s projects, the protection of the environment merits particular prominence, keeping present the criterion of a human ecology, that enables you to recognize the close link between  care of the environment and that of man and grasps the grave consequences of environmental degradation on an individual’s life, in particular, the poorest. Another realm of action that you should have particularly at heart concerns aid to refugees and migrants, who ask to be helped and integrated in the social fabric. Italy is praiseworthily committed in this work – she is an example! In expressing my appreciation for all this, I exhort you to continue courageously on the plane of concrete hospitality, be it in that of sensitization or of true integration. Thank you for what Italy does.
All the other educational and welfare projects of the Italian Civil Service, with which in different ways support children, youngsters, disabled individuals, the marginalized and those in need of help also merit particular consideration. Then, an extraordinary commitment is required, in these months, by the populations struck by the earthquake, to which I renew my closeness and encouragement. May all these realities become for you occasions of human growth and the sharing of experiences, knowledge and sensibility.
Dear young people, I hope you will follow the way that gives fulness of meaning and joy to your life. This way is not the same for all, but everyone can find the one most adapted to his personality, to his gifts <and> to his situation. There are, however, common coordinates outside of which it is not possible to find it, and one of these coordinates is, precisely, that of service. The way of service is certainly counter-current in relation to the prevailing models, but in reality each one of us feels happy and fulfilled only when he is useful to someone. This releases new energies in us, it makes us perceive that we are not alone and it expands our horizons. I invite you to walk on this path of service and to take Jesus as your perfect model of humanity, who makes room for others in Himself to the point of giving His life.
To the Institutions, which I thank for their work in favor of young people committed in the Year of Voluntary Service, I ask to make themselves increasingly promoters of a true solidaristic spirit in the population. May this sensitivity become ever less occasional and more structural, until it pervades all the actions of the different public and private subjects. The degree of a peoples’ civilization  is measured, in fact, on the basis of their capacity to respect and promote the rights of every person, beginning with the weakest.
Thank you for this meeting. I invoke the Lord’s blessing upon you and your projects, so that He will help you to act ever more daringly and selflessly, looking far to the horizons of hope. And, please, pray also for me. Thank you.
[Original text: Italian]  [Translation by ZENIT]

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