Following his meeting with the clergy of Naples, the Holy Father held a closed door meeting with the sick & disabled at the Basilica of Gesu Nuovo. Shortly after, he made his way to Lungomare Caracciolo, where he met with the city’s youth.
The Pope, although visibly tired from the day’s activities, kept up with the pace of the events, greeting young people along the way to the stage. One of the host’s, overjoyed at the Pope’s presence, said: “We youth live for Pope Bergoglio!” to which the Pope smiled and shook his head in disagreement. Giving him the microphone, the Pope said: “No, for Pope Bergoglio no.”
“For Pope Francis,” the hostess said.
“Not even for Pope Francis,” the Holy Father replied. “We live for the joy of being believers, for the joy that Jesus Christ gives us, for the joy of having hope, for the joy of being courageous, for joy of not throwing ourselves down. We live for that!”
The meeting began with several questions directed to the Pope, the first from a young woman who asked the Holy Father on how to respond to life with joy in the midst of “God’s silence”, particularly in the midst of suffering.
Before responding, the Pope apologized for not standing up to answer. “Please forgive me for remaining seated, but I am truly tired,” he said with a smile. “Because you, Neapolitans, you make us move around!”
Answering the young woman’s question, the Pope said that while God is a God of words and gestures, He is also a God of silence.
“But the greatest silence of God was the Cross,” he said. “Jesus felt the silence of the Father, even to the point of saying He was ‘Abandoned’: ‘Father, why have you abandoned me.'”
“And then there was the word, that great gesture that is the Resurrection. But our God is a God of silence, and there are some silences of God that cannot be explained if you do not look at the Cross. For example, why do children suffer? How can you explain this to me? Where can you find a word of God that explains why children suffer? It is one of the great silences of God. And the silence of God – I do not say that it cannot be understood – we can come close to the silence of God looking at Christ Crucified, Christ Dead, Christ Abandoned, from the Garden of Olives to the Cross.”
The Pope continued answering a question by a 95 year old woman named Irminia, who asked on how the elderly can be a part of society rather than be “thrown aside. “The Pope began by commenting on the woman’s energy and youthfulness despite her age. “When I heard that you were 95 years old, I wanted to say: ‘If you are 95 years old, then I’m Napoleon.’
Responding to Irminia’s question, the Holy Father repeated his often said condemnation of the “throwaway culture”, where not only the elderly are thrown aside but also children, some preferring giving affection to a dog or cat rather than children.
Speaking on a ‘hidden euthanasia’, where the elderly are ignored or denied food, medicine and human affection, the Pope called on those with elderly parents to be close to them and take care of them.
The final question directed to the Pope dealt with the ideological attack against the family in today’s society. Among the problems discussed by the Holy Father was the fact that many youth today, choose to live together rather than marry out of fear of commitment. He gave an example of one couple he knew that lived together for many years, finally decided the get married not concerned with importance of the Sacrament, but rather with preparations of the dress, choosing the right Church and the restaurant for the party.
“But tell me,” the Pope said, “with what faith are you going to be married with?” “It is a social fact: the family is in crisis.”
The Jesuit Pope also highlighted what he describes as “ideological colonizations” that are taking place in today’s world. “These things that are in Europe, but that also come from the other side of the ocean: methods, proposals…Also, that error of the human mind that is ‘gender theory’ and that creates so much confusion, so much confusion. The family is under attack.”
The Pope said that while he may not have all the answers on how to confront these issues, the Church is aware of it. The upcoming Synod on the Family, he said was inspired by the Lord in order to tackle these issues in today’s world.
Before departing for the Vatican, the Holy Father thanked the crowds for the warm welcome and reminded the youth to remain with and care for the elderly, who “carry with them wisdom.”