At 4:00 o’clock this afternoon, the meeting of young people and elderly with the Holy Father Francis, entitled “The Wisdom of Time,” took place at the Augustinianum Patristic Institute — a special event in the ambit of the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme: “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment” (October 3-28, 2018).
The meeting stemmed from an editorial project of Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J., which came out today, entitled “The Wisdom of Time. In Dialogue with Pope Francis on the Great Questions of Life.” It includes 250 interviews with elderly persons of over 30 countries, thanks to the aid of non-profit organizations, such as “Unbound” and the “Jesuit Refugee Service.”
After the interventions of H.E. Monsignor Jose Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, O.S.A., Archbishop of Panama and President of the Organizing Committee of the 2019 World Youth Day, and of the author, Father Antonio Spadaro, Director of “La Civita Cattolica” review, the Holy Father Francis answered questions off-the-cuff of a group of young people and elderly from Colombia, Italy, Malta and the United States.
Here is a ZENIT working translation of the text.
The Holy Father’s Dialogue with Young People and Elderly
Federica Ancona, 26, Italy
Pope Francis, today we young people are always exposed to models of life that express a “use and throw away” vision, what you call the “culture of rejection.” It seems to me that society today drives us to live a form of individualism, which then ends up in competition. I’m not asked to do my best, but to always be better than others. But I have the impression that one who falls into this mechanism ends up by feeling a failure. What is, instead, the way to happiness? How can I live a happy life? How can we young people look within ourselves and understand what is truly important? How can we young people create true and genuine relationships when everything around us seems fake, of plastic? Thank you, Holy Father.
“Fake and of plastic”: it’s the culture of effect, what counts are appearances; what counts is personal success even at the price of trampling on others’ head, to go ahead with this competition that you mention — I have the written questions here, so I won’t get lost. And your question is: How can one be happy in this market of competition, in the market of appearance? You didn’t say the word, but I allow me to say it: in this market of hypocrisy. I say it, not in the moral sense, but in the human-psychological sense: to appear as something that isn’t inside; one appears in a way, but inside there is a void, or, for example, the eagerness to come first, isn’t that so?
On this, a gesture comes to me — a gesture to explain what I want to say to you with my answer. This is the gesture: the extended and open hand. The hand of competition is closed and takes, always takes, accumulates, so often at a dear price, at the cost of annihilating others, for example, at the cost of contempt for others but . . . this is competition! The gesture of anti-competition is this: to open oneself — and to open oneself on the way. Generally, competition is still: it does its calculations, often unconsciously, but is still; it doesn’t expose itself. It does calculations but doesn’t expose itself. Instead, the personality’s maturation always happens on the way, it challenges itself. To say it with a common expression: it dirties the hands. Why? — Because the hand is extended to greet, to embrace, to receive. And this makes me think of what the Saints say, also Jesus: “There is more joy in giving than in receiving.” Against this culture that annihilates feelings, there is service, to serve. And you’ll see the most mature people, the most mature young people — mature in the sense of developed, sure of themselves, smiling, with a sense of humour — are those with open hands, on the way, with service. And the other word: they risk. If you don’t risk in life, you’ll never, never be mature, you’ll never say a prophesy, you’ll only have the illusion of accumulating to be secure. It’s a culture of rejection, but for those that don’t feel rejected, it’s the culture of insurance: to have all the insurance possible to OK. And there comes to mind that parable of Jesus: the rich man who’d had a great harvest and didn’t know where to put the grain. And he says: I’ll build larger barns and so will be secure” – insurance for his whole life. And Jesus says that this story ends thus: “Fool, this night you will die” (Cf. Luke 12:16-21). The culture of competition never looks at the end; it looks at the end that one has proposed to oneself in one’s heart; to get there, climbing, in any way, but always trampling on heads. Instead, the culture of coexistence, of fraternity is a culture of service, a culture that opens and dirties the hands. This is the gesture. I don’t know; I don’t want to repeat myself but I believe this is the essential answer to your question. You want to escape from this culture that makes you feel a failure, from the culture of competition, from the culture of rejection, <and> live a happy life? Open: the gesture of a hand always extended thus, a smile, on the way, never seated, always on the way, <with> soiled hands, and you’ll be happy. I don’t know; it comes to me to say this to you.
The next question, Holy Father, comes from Malta. It’s a couple — Tony and Grace Naudi; they are grandparents and have been married for 43 years.
Tony and Grace Naudi, 71 and 65, Malta[In English} Holy Father, I’m Tony. My wife Grace and I raised a family of four children, a son and three daughters, and we have five grandchildren and another on the way. As many families, we gave our children a Catholic education, and we did everything to help them live the word of God in their daily life. Yet, despite our efforts as parents to transmit the faith, the children are, sometimes, very critical, they argue with us, they seem to reject their Catholic education. What should we say to them? The faith is important for us. It’s painful for us to see our children and our grandchildren far from the faith and much taken up with the more worldly and superficial things. Give us a word of encouragement and help. What can we do as parents and grandparents to share the faith with our children and our grandchildren?
There is something I once said, because it came to me spontaneously, on the transmission of the faith: the faith is transmitted “in dialect” — always. The family dialect, dialect . . . Think of the mother of those seven young men of which we read in the Book of the Maccabees: twice the biblical account says that the mother encouraged them “in dialect,” in the mother tongue, because the faith was transmitted so; the faith is transmitted at home, always. It’s in fact grandparents, in the most difficult moments of history, who have transmitted the faith. We think of the religious persecutions of the last century, of the genocide dictatorships that we’ve all known: it was the grandparents who, secretly, taught the grandchildren to pray, the faith, and also took them secretly to Baptism. Why not the parents? Because the parents were involved in the philosophy of the party, of both parties [Nazi and Communist] and if it became known that they had their children baptized, they would have lost their jobs, for example, or would have become victims of persecutions. A teacher told me — a teacher of one of these countries, that on the Monday after Easter they had to ask the children: “What did you eat at home yesterday? — simply, and those that said “eggs, eggs,” that information was passed to punish the parents. So, they [the parents] couldn’t do the transmission of the faith — it was up to the grandparents to do so. And, during these moments of persecution, they had a great responsibility for this, assumed by themselves and they carried it forward, secretly, with the most elementary methods.
I take up again <the question>: the faith is always transmitted in dialect. You can’t transmit the faith with the Catechism: “read the Catechism and you’ll have faith.” No, because the faith isn’t only the contents, there is the way of living, of valuing, of enjoying, of being sad, of weeping . . . It’s a whole life that leads there.
And your question is a bit — permit me — it seems to express somewhat a sense of guilt: “perhaps we failed in the transmission of the faith?” No. You can’t say this. Life is like that. At the beginning you transmitted the faith, but then it’s lived, and the world makes proposals that enthuse children when growing up, and many distance themselves from the faith because they make a choice — not always bad, but often unaware –, among the values; they hear more modern ideologies and they distance themselves. I wanted to pause on this description of the transmission of the faith to say what I think. The first thing is not to get scared, not to lose peace — peace, always speaking with the Lord: “We have transmitted the faith and now . . . “Be calm. Never try to convince, because the faith, like the Church, doesn’t grow by proselytism; it grows by attraction — this is a phrase of Benedict XVI — namely, by witnessing. Listen to them, receive them well, the grandchildren <and> the children; accompany them in silence.
There comes to mind an anecdote of a trade unionist — a director, a trade unionist I knew –, that at 20/21 fell into alcohol addiction. He lived alone with his mother, because the mother had him when she was a girl. He would get drunk and, in the morning, he would see his mother going out to work. She worked washing towels, shirts, as they washed at that time, with wooden boards. She worked the whole day, and the son <was> there . . . And he would see his mother, but feigned to be asleep — he didn’t have a job at a time when there was so much work — and he saw his mother stop, look at him tenderly, and leave for work. This made him collapse: the silence, his mother’s tenderness made all his resistances collapse, and one day he said: “No, it can’t be like this.” He gave himself something to do, he matured and had a good family, a good career . . . Silence, tenderness . . . A silence that accompanies, not the silence of accusation; no, <the silence> that accompanies. It’s one of the virtues of grandparents. We have seen so many things in life, which so often only silence, good, warm silence can help.
Then, if one asks oneself what are the causes of this distancing, there is always one cause that opens the doors to ideologies: negative testimonies. Not always in the family, no, the greater part are the negative testimonies of people of the Church: neurotic priests, or people that say they are Catholic and live a double life, inconsistencies, by the fact of seeking in Christian communities, things that aren’t Christian values . . . It’s always negative testimonies that distance one from life [from faith]. And then, people, who receive these negative examples, accuse. They say: “I lost my faith because I saw this and that . . . “And they are right. And what is only needed is another testimony, that of goodness, of meekness, of patience; the testimony that Jesus gave in His Passion, when He suffered and was able to touch the heart.
To parents and grandparents who have had this experience, I counsel much love, much tenderness, understanding, witness and patience. And prayer, prayer. . . Think of Saint Monica: she won with tears. She was good. But never argue, never, because this is a trap. Children want to lead parents to argument. No, it’s better to say: “I don’t know how to answer this. Look elsewhere, but seek, seek . . . “Always avoid a direct argument, because these distances. And always witness “in dialect,” namely, with those caresses that they understand. <Do> this.
Delia Gallagher: Thank you, Holy Father. The third question comes from the United States, from Rosemary Lane. Rosemary works for Loyola Press and so this book was made in part thanks to her, by which you collected some stories of elderly people to make the book.
Rosemary Lane, 30, United States of America[In English} Holy Father, I had the privilege to spend a year collecting the wisdom of the elderly of the whole world for the book “The Wisdom of Time.” I was able to ask some elderly people how they face their frailty, their uncertainties for the future. Conny Caruso, a wise woman, said to me that I must never give up hope. I must do something, struggle; have confidence in life. However, today confidence can’t be taken for granted. From you also I perceive personally this message of confidence. It makes me reflect: confidence comes to me from persons who have already lived a long time. We young people live a difficult life; we live in an unstable world full of challenges. As a grandfather, what would you say to young people who want to have confidence in life, who wish to build for themselves a future to the height of their dreams?
“What would you say, as a grandfather, to young people who want to have confidence in life, who want to build a future to the height of their dreams? “This is the question. You have done a good job with these interviews! It’s a beautiful experience that I will never, never forget.! – a beautiful experience.
I’ll take the last word: “at the height of their dreams.” Dreams are the last word, and the answer is: begin to dream. Dream <about> everything. There comes to mind that lovely song: “Nel blu dipinto di blu, felice di stare lassu.” Dream so, brazenly, without shame. Dream. The word is to dream, and defend dreams as children are defended. This is difficult to understand but it’s easy to feel: when you have a dream, something that you don’t know how to verbalize, but you guard and defend it, so that the daily habit doesn’t take it away from you. To open horizons, which are against closures. Closures don’t know horizons, dreams do! Dream, and take on oneself the elderly and their dreams. To take on these elderlies, their dreams; not to listen to them, record them, and then say: “now let’s go to have a good time.” No. Take them on. The dream we receive from an elderly man is a weight, it costs to take it forward. It’s a responsibility: we must take them forward. There is an icon that comes from the Monastery of Bose, which is called “Holy Communion,” and it’s of a young monk who carries forward an elderly man, he carries forwards the dreams of an elderly man, and it’s not easy, one sees he effort in this. In this very beautiful little image a youth is seen who was capable of taking upon himself the dreams of the elderly and carry them forward, to make them fructify. Perhaps this will be of inspiration. You can’t take on all the elderly, but you can take their dreams, and take them forward; it will do you good to take them. Not just to listen to them, to write to them, no. To take them and carry them forward. And this changes your heart; this makes you grow; this makes you mature. It’s in fact the maturation of an elderly man. In dreams, they will tell you what they have done in life; they will tell you their mistakes, failures, successes, they will tell you this. Take it. Take all this experience of life and go forward. This is the point of departure.
“What would you say to young people who want to have confidence in life?” Take on yourself the dreams of the elderly and carry them forward. This will make you mature. Thank you.
Thank you. The next question comes from Italy, from Mrs Fiorella Bacherini, who is a wife, mother, grandmother, as well as teacher of Italian for migrants and refugees in Florence.
Fiorella Bacherini, 83, Italy
Pope Francis, I’m worried. I have three children. One is a Jesuit like you. They have chosen their life and are going forward on their way. However, I also look around me, I look at my country, at the world. I see divisions and violence growing. For instance, I was very affected by the harshness and cruelty of which we are witnesses, in the treatment of refugees. I don’t want to discuss politics; I speak of humanity. How easy it is to have hatred grow among the people! And there comes to mind moments and memories of the War, which I lived as a child. With what sentiments are you facing this difficult moment of the history of the world?
Thank you. I liked that “I don’t speak of politics but I speak of humanity.” This is wise. Young people don’t have the experience of two Wars. I learnt it from my grandfather, who was in the First [World War], in the Piave; I learned so many things from his account. Also, the songs, somewhat against the King and Queen; I learned all this. The sorrows, the sorrows of war . . .What does a war leave? <It leaves> millions of dead, in the great slaughter. Then the Second [World War] came and I learned <about> this one in Buenos Aires, with so many migrants that arrived: so many, many, many after the Second World War, Italians, Poles, Germans . . . many, many. And, listening to them, I understood, everyone understood what war was, which we [in Argentina] didn’t experience. I think it’s important that young people know the effects of the two Wars of the last century: it’s a negative treasure, but a treasure to transmit, to create awareness; a treasure that also made Italian art grow: the post-war cinema is a school of humanism. It’s important that they know this, to not fall into the same error; that they know how populisms grows, for example, we think of ’32 or ’33 of Hitler, that young man who promised Germany’s development after a government that had failed — so that they know how populisms begin. You said a very awful but very true word: “to sow hatred.” And one can’t live sowing hatred. We in the religious experience of the history of religions, we think of the Reformation: we sowed hatred, so much <hatred>, by both sides, Protestants and Catholics. I said this explicitly at Lund [in Sweden, in the ecumenical meeting], and now, 50 years later, we have slowly realized that that wasn’t the way and we are trying to sow gestures of friendship and not of division. It’s easy to sow hatred, and not only on the international scene, also in the neighbourhood. One goes, speaks of a woman neighbour, of a man neighbour, sows hatred and when hatred is sown there is division; there is wickedness in daily life. To sow hatred with comments, with gossip . . . From the Great War I come down to gossip, but I am of the same sort. To sow hatred also with gossip in the family, in the neighbourhood, is to kill: to kill others’ reputation, to kill peace and concord in the family, in the neighbourhood, in the workplace, to have jealousies grow, the competitions of which the first girl spoke. What should I do – – was her question — when I see that the Mediterranean is a cemetery? I — I tell her the truth, suffer, pray, speak out. We must not accept this suffering. <We> must not say “but, there is suffering everywhere, let’s go on . . . “This isn’t right. Today there is the third War piecemeal: a piece here, a piece there, and there, and there . . . Look at the places of conflict, <at> the lack of humanity, of aggression, of hatred between cultures, between tribes, also a deformation of religion to be able to hate better. This isn’t the way; this is the way of the suicide of humanity. To sow hatred, to prepare the Third World War, which is underway in pieces. And I believe I don’t exaggerate in this. There comes to mind — and this is said to young people — that prophecy of Einstein: The Fourth World War will be done with sticks and stones, because the Third will have destroyed everything. To sow hatred and make hatred grow, to create violence and division, is the way of destruction, of suicide, of other destructions. This can be covered up [justified] with freedom; it can be covered up with so many motives! That young man of the last century, in the ‘30s, covered it up with the purity of the race; and here, <I think of> the migrants. To receive the migrant is a biblical mandate, because “you yourself were a stranger in Egypt” (Cf. Leviticus 19:34). Then we think: Europe was made up of migrants; so many migratory currents over the centuries made the Europe of today, the cultures were mixed. And Europe well knows — that in bad moments other countries, of America, for example, either of the North or the South, welcomed European migrants — what this means. We must take up again — before expressing a judgment on the problems of migrations –, take up again our European history. I am the son of a migrant who went to Argentina and, in America, many, many have an Italian surname — they are migrants — received with the heart and with open doors. But closure is the beginning of suicide. It’s true that migrants must be received, they must be accompanied, but, above all, they must integrate. If we receive “like this” [as happens, without a plan], we don’t do a good service: there is the work of integration <to be done>. Sweden was an example of this for more than 40 years. I lived it up close: how many Argentines and Uruguayans, at the time of our military dictatorships, took refuge in Sweden. And they were integrated immediately, immediately. School, work . . . integrated in the society. And when I was at Lund last year the Prime Minister received me and then, as he was unable to come to take his leave, he sent a Minister, I believe of Culture . . .In Sweden where they are all blond, this <Minister> was somewhat brown: A Minister of Culture like this… Then I learned that she was the daughter of a Swedish woman and a migrant from Africa. <She was> so integrated that she became a Minister of the country. This is how things are integrated. Instead, <there was> the tragedy of Zaventem [in Belgium] that we all remember. It wasn’t done by foreigners; it was done by Belgian young people, but Belgian young people that had been ghettoized in a district! Yes, they were received but not integrated. And this isn’t the way. A government should have — these are the criteria — an open heart, good structures to carry out integration and also the prudence to say: I can up to this point, <but> beyond, I can’t. Therefore, it’s important that the whole of Europe come to an agreement on this problem. On the contrary, the heaviest burden is carried by Italy, Greece, Spain, Cyprus a bit, three-four countries . . . It’s important.
But, please, don’t sow hatred. And today, I will ask all to look at the new European cemetery: it’s called the Mediterranean; it’s called the Aegean. This is what comes to me to say to you. And thank you for having asked this question, not for political <reasons>, but for humanity. Thank you!
Thank you. Holy Father, the next question comes from Colombia, of a young woman called Jennifer Tatiana Valencia Morales, and she works for “Unbound” and, therefore, travels in the villages of the mountains of Colombia to help the elderly and young people, and she goes on a motorcycle.
Jennifer Tatiana Valencia Morales, 20, Colombia
[In Spanish] Pope Francis, gathering the stories of this book, I remained profoundly affected by the life of the elderly. You must have heard so many stories in your life. What spurred you to accept this project and to listen to the life stories of the elderly persons present in this book? Many stories in this book are of elderly people that live in situations of great poverty, people that aren’t important in the eyes of the world, of society. No one would be <there> to listen to them. After listening to life stories, were you touched, changed? Do you like to listen to life stories? Does it help you in your ministry as Pope?
The last question:” Do you like to listen to life stories, does it help you in your ministry as Pope?”
Yes, and it also pleases me, it pleases me, when, in the Wednesday Audiences I start to greet the people; I stop where there are children and elderly people. And I have so many experiences, so many experiences in listening to the elderly. I will only tell you one <experience>, which concerns the family. There was once a couple that <was celebrating their> 60th Wedding Anniversary, but they were young, because at that time <people> got married young. Today, to have a son marry, the mother must stop ironing his shirts, because, otherwise, he won’t leave home! But at that time, they got married young. I asked them the question: “Was it worthwhile to undertake this journey? And they, who were looking at me, looked at one another, and then looked at me again and had wet eyes, and then they answered: “We are in love!” I never, never thought <I would get> such a “modern” response from a couple observing 60 years of marriage. One always comes across new things; new things that help one go forward.
Then, something else: I had an experience of dialogue with the elderly, by chance, as a boy. I liked to listen to them. One of our neighbours was an opera lover and I, as an adolescent 16/17 years old, accompanied her to the opera, yes, in the “hen-house” [the gallery], where it was less expensive. Then my two grandmothers, I talked so much with them: I was curious about their life; they impressed me. Something that I remember so much of the elderly is a lady who came to our house to help my mother with the washing; she was a Sicilian immigrant, who had two children. She had lived through the War, the Second War, and then she left with her children. And she told stories about the War, and I learned so much from the grief of those people, what is means to leave ones’ country, to the point that I accompanied this woman until she died, at 90. And once, when there was a parting, by an egotistical act of mine, I lost sight of her; I suffered a lot for not <going> to find her.
It was a good experience with the elderly; they didn’t scare me. I was always with young people, but . . . And with these experiences I understood the capacity to dream that the elderly has, because there is always advice: ‘go on thus, do this . . . I tell you this, don’t forget this . . . “Not imperative but open advice, and with tenderness. And this advice gave me a bit the sense of history and of belonging. Our identity isn’t the identity card we have: our identity has roots and, listening to the elderly, we find our roots, like the tree, which has its roots to grow, to flower, to give fruit. If you cut the tree’s roots, it won’t grow, it won’t give fruits, perhaps, it will die. There is a poem — I’ve said it so often — an Argentine poem of one of our great poets, Bernardez, which says; ‘what the tree has flowering, comes from what is buried,” but not to go to the roots to close oneself there, as a closed conservatory, no. It’s to do — and I heard this in the Synod Hall — one of those wise Bishops said it — is to do as a truffle! It’s born close to the root, assimilates everything and then, see what a gem the truffle <is>! And how it harms the pockets to have one! It takes the lymph from the roots, the histories, and this gives you membership in a people. And then this membership is what gives you your identity. If you say to me: Why are there so many “liquid” young people today? — in this cultural liquidity which is in fashion, that you don’t know if they are “liquid” or “gaseous” . . . It’s not their fault! It’s the fault of detaching themselves from the roots of history. However, it’s not about being as they are [the elderly], but about taking the juice, like the truffle, and grow and go forward with history — identity, belonging to a people.
And another experience I had, already as a priest and Bishop, is that which young people have when they go to visit a Rest Home. A small experience at Buenos Aires. [The kids said] “Shall we go there? But it’s boring with old people!” This was their first reaction. Then they went, with the guitar, they began . . . and the elderly began to wake up, and in the end, it was the young people who didn’t want to leave! They continued playing and playing, because a bond was created.
And, finally, the biblical figure: when Mary and Joseph take the Child to the Temple; two elderly persons receive them. That wise man [Simeon], who dreamed his whole life of meeting, of seeing the Liberator, the Saviour. And he sings that liturgy; he invents a liturgy of praise to God. And that elderly woman [Anna] who was in the Temple, with the same hope, and she is a chatterbox and goes everywhere, saying: “It’s this one, it’s this one . . . “she is able to transmit what she has discovered in her encounter with Jesus — that image of two elderly people. The Bible repeats that the Spirit drove them. And it says that the young Mary and Joseph, with Jesus, wanted to observe the Lord’s Law. It’s a very beautiful image that this gives us of dialogue and richness, of belonging and of identity. I don’t know if I’ve answered you . . .
Well. Holy Father, the last question comes from the United States, from Mr Martin Scorsese, noted filmmaker, producer, screenwriter. His most recent film is “Silence,” which is the story of a missionary Jesuit in Japan.
Martin Scorsese, 75, the United States[In English] Holy Father, I’ve been making films for a long time, but I grew up in the working class, in peripheral neighbourhoods of New York. There is a church there, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral: it’s the first Catholic Cathedral of New York. I spent so much time in that church. However, outside that church things were very different: there was poverty, violence . . . as a child I understood that the sufferings I was seeing were not on television or films; they wee in fact there, in front of my eyes; they were real. I understood that there was a truth on the street, and that in church there was another truth that was presented and that they were not, they did not seem to be the same. It was very, truly very different to put them together, to reconcile these two worlds. Love of Jesus seemed to be something completely “apart,” strange, alien, often, in relation to what I saw happening on the street. I was fortunate because I had good parents who loved me and a young, extraordinary priest, who became a sort of mentor for me and others, in the years of formation. However, today also, looking around us — newspapers, television — it seems that the world is marked by evil. Today people work so hard to change, to believe in the future. There is no more belief in the good. We are also witnessing painful human failures in the very institution of the Church. How can we, older people, reinforce and guide young people in the experiences they’ll have to face in life? Holy Father, how can the faith survive of a young man or of a young woman in this hurricane? How can we help the Church in this effort? In what way can a human being today live a good and upright life in a society where what drives one to act is greed and vanity, where power is expressed with violence? How can I live well when I experience evil?
“How can the faith of a young woman or of a young man survive this hurricane? How can we help the Church in this effort?” is the question. It’s truly a hurricane. When we were children also, a phenomenon manifested itself which always existed, but <was> not so strong . . . Seen today more clearly that cruelty can be done to a child . . . The problem of cruelty: how does one act in regard to cruelty? Cruelty everywhere. Cold cruelty in calculations to ruin the other . . . And one of the forms of cruelty that has struck me, in this world of human rights, is torture. In this world, torture is the daily bread, and it seems normal, and no one speaks out. Torture is the destruction of human dignity. Once, I was following up young parents, and I spoke about how to correct children, how to punish them: sometimes the “practical philosophy” of a slap is useful, a little slap, but never on the face, never, because this takes away dignity. You know where to give it — I said to parents — but never, never on the face. And torture is like a slap on the face, it’s to play with the dignity of persons. <There is> violence, violence to survive — violence in certain neighbourhoods where if you don’t rob you don’t eat. And this is part of our culture, which we can’t deny, because it’s the truth and we must acknowledge it.
But I <have strayed from> the question: how to act in regard to cruelty? Great cruelty — I’ve spoken of cruelty — and the little cruelty that there is among us? How to teach, how to transmit to young people that cruelty is a mistaken way, a way that kills not only the person, but also humanity, the sense of belonging, the community? And here, there is a word we must say: the wisdom of crying, the gift of crying. In face of this violence, of this cruelty, of this destruction of human dignity, crying is human and Christian. Ask for the grace of tears, because crying softens the heart, it opens the heart. Crying is the source of inspiration. Jesus cried in the most heartfelt moments of his life. In the moment He saw the failure if His people, He wept over Jerusalem. Weep. Don’t be afraid to weep for these things: we are human. Then, share the experience, and I return to speak of dialect and of empathy. Share the experience with young people with empathy: there can’t be a conversation with a youth without empathy. Where do I find this empathy? Don’t condemn young people, as young people must not condemn the elderly, but have empathy: human empathy. I am going because I’m old, but you remain, and this is the empathy of the transmission of values.
And then, closeness; closeness works miracles, non-violence, meekness, <and> tenderness: these human virtues, which seem small but are capable of overcoming the most difficult, most awful conflicts. Closeness, as you, perhaps, as a child got close to those people with so many sufferings and, perhaps, from there you began to take the wisdom that we see today in your films — closeness with those who suffer. Don’t be afraid — closeness to problems, and closeness between young people and the elderly.
They are few things: meekness, tenderness, closeness, and thus an experience is transmitted that makes one mature — <that makes> young people, ourselves and humanity <mature>.
I am grateful for all these questions and for this reflection of yours, which has made me talk a bit too much! Thank you for your work, thank you, Synodal young people and thank you elderly. I ask you to pray for me. Thank you.