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Pope Francis’ Q & A at Roman Parish of the Blessed Sacrament (Full Text)

‘Many times it’s only words.  Instead, love is concrete’

Pope Francis on May 6, 2018, made a pastoral visit to the Parish of the Blessed Sacrament in Tor De ‘Schiavi, Rome.  He was joined by Cardinal Luis Tagle, Archbishop of Manila and President of Caritas Internationalis. There, the Pontiff inaugurated the “House of Joy” for disabled persons, realized in the attic rooms.

Here is a ZENIT working translation of the words the Pontiff pronounced during the various meetings in the course of the visit to the parish.

* * *

Meeting with the Parish Community

Mauro:

Welcome, Pope Francis. Thank you for being here with us, in the parish of the Most Holy Sacrament in the neighborhood of Tor de’ Schiavi. Thank you. I am Mauro and, together with another group of parents, we take care of the oratory. I’m married; I have three children and we are of the many so-called irregular families, but here the doors have always been open to us; we have been received with love, so much so that today we are part of the staff of the parish and we are committed personally in the parish activities. Here we also feel at home; this is our home. The question I want to ask you is this: How can we make parents understand, who bring or will bring children into the ambit of the parish, of the activities, not to leave them alone but to accompany them on the journey and to educate them also in the journey of faith? So that thus the nucleus — the family —  which is the basis of Christian life, can be more cohesive? Because today we are told that the family is no longer of any use . . . Thank you.

Pope Francis

You have touched the sore: the children, the children that grow up, the family, but without the family . . .  At home, the father <is> busy up to his ears . . . The busy mother, who works . . . And the children grow up somewhat alone, isn’t it that so? Sometimes there are grandmothers, grandfathers that help so much. The grandparents help; they are a treasure, a clap for the grandparents! This world puts grandparents on the list to be discarded, because this is the throwaway culture. What doesn’t produce, what is of no use, is discarded. Grandparents are old, and they are rejected. “No, No! Grandparents have a pension and I am in need” . . . Ah, because of interests! When this is in the middle, grandparents are worth something. Never discard the grandparents!

Now the problem: when children grow up alone, but not because of the parents’ bad will, but because they work, they need to work . . . And they grow without that dialogue with parents. And the great values of life – the faith – are transmitted only “in dialect,” namely, in the language of the family. Yes, we’ll learn so many things, but that faith that your mother, father or grandparents teach you, that wisdom of life that you learn as a child and that which is given at home, that which will make you strong, is that ”in dialect,: if you live the dialect at home. Yes, many things are learned at school, good things, values, but the basic ones are learned “in dialect,” are transmitted “in dialect.” It’s important to look for the way to help parents so that they can speak with their children. A parent once said to me: “When I go out in the morning to work, the children are asleep. When I return in the evening, they are sleeping.” And only on Sunday does he speak with them – on Sunday; but this culture is like this: it’s slavish, and work takes up the whole of life. Therefore, it’s important that grandparents enter in the family, that they help the father and mother to be present with the children, so that they don’t grow up alone — not because they’ll do, perhaps, bad things, no, no, but they grow up weak. It’s a “vitamin” problem! It’s the problem of the vitamin that the family gives, which makes one grow strong.  To know that the mother and the father . . . I have a habit: when I hear the Confession of a father or a mother who have more or less small children – even the older ones, but especially the little ones – I ask if they play with the children. Values are transmitted also while playing. “But do you have time to throw yourself on the floor and do something there with your son, with your daughter?” This is important; it must not be lost! “But I return tired . . . I don’t know, I like to look at television . . .” But play with your children! “it’s boring . . .” No, learn. This is a great criterion! A father and mother that know how to play: to spend time with the children. It’s true that the children always ask the same things: why? . . . Why? When they are in the “why” age, they give one a headache because of the many questions. But it’s necessary to know how to answer, to be able to play, to be able to talk, to be able to spend time with the children. This is the “dialect” of love, which transmits all the values and the faith. Please, work on this. The family is the kernel of love. What is not learned in the family, will be learned with difficulty outside. I don’t know if I’ve answered <your question>.

Simona:

Hello, I am Simona, I’m a leader of the oratory and form part of the group of young people of the parish. Let’s say that in my experience I’ve had a bit of difficulty, especially in the past years, to insert myself in a parish community, because I’ve had bad testimonies; I’ve observed so much incoherence and I’ve also received little welcome. Discussing it and talking also about it with my friends of the group, we imagined how much the lack of love on the part of the community, sought outside, by those that are outside of the Church, leads them then to seek a surrogate of love elsewhere. So we ask ourselves: but, effectively, does the Pope really love us? Do the Bishops, the priests, the catechists really love the kids? And if this love does exist, then why is it unable to reach all the kids and sends them away, namely, is unable to have them close?

Pope Francis

According to the “tone” of your question, my answer should be a [beating] for the priests and the Bishops… So, you’ve said three things, that must not be forgotten: bad experiences, incoherence, and the first was? . . . Awful testimonies, incoherence in the testimonies. The good testimony; the good experience and air, the good air and coherence are what the air of the family gives. And a parish must be a family: the air of the family. It’s not easy. There is a virtue that all priests must have, an attitude they must have – the priests, the Bishops, the Popes, all – closeness. “Ah, psychologists say this!” No, God the Father said it when He willed that His Son make himself close to us. Jesus is God close to us. And we who are Jesus’ apostles, must go on this path <of> closeness. The Gospel isn’t preached with words, with arguments. No, it’s not preached this way. It’s preached with closeness, with testimonies, with coherence. And you must ask this of the Pastors: of me, of the Bishops, of the priests — coherence, witness. This is the language, the “dialect” in which the faith is transmitted. A dialect made up of coherence, of testimonies, to have good experiences sprout in others. Hospitality. You said, “I haven’t felt welcomed. Hospitality. And hospitality is that natural smile, that smile of ”Come in, it’s your home!” I’m not saying the artificial smile of so many people, what they must do for work. You smile because, if you don’t smile, you are fired from work, but, in the end, it’s an artificial smile. No. The welcoming smile: ”Come, because I’m happy you are here.” Make this felt: that this is your home. And always ask this of the Pastors: closeness, because Jesus made himself close. Jesus’ great homilies weren’t sermons. Yes, these teach us so much, but the great, great homily is closeness. That He descended among us. Theologians call this [closeness.] Or the finer theologians say it in Greek: syncatabasi.” Then I ask the parish priest who will teach it – closeness,  — God, who made Himself close. And God — it’s interesting — when He went in the desert with the people of Israel, asked the question: “Behold, have you seen a people that has a God so close as I am with you?” God Himself says that He is close. This is also a virtue that not only we Pastors should have. It’s also a virtue of all Christians.  A Christian always makes himself close to others. Not in an annoying way, not those boring people, no. Close, with discretion, with love, always with an open heart. And when there isn’t closeness in a parish, that attitude of closeness in the Pastors and also in the laymen that collaborate, one feels what you felt: coldness, cold, it’s a tepid parish, a functional parish, where everything is ok except the heart. It’s a “cardiopathic” parish. It has the sickness of the heart, which that closeness does. I don’t know if this is the answer, for Pastors, for the laity and for the Sisters! Thank you.

Beatrice:

Dear Pope Francis, I’m Beatrice, I’m 15 and I have a question. Sadly, two years ago I lost my father and since then I’ve come very close to the Church and to this parish, in which I’ve found a group of fantastic people, who have received me as a family, and an important spiritual comfort. However, I see so many of my contemporaries that are distant from the Church because they think it’s boring. So I ask myself, what can I do, what can we do to make adolescents understand that the Church is, instead, a place of love, as I and all of us here today understood it ? Thank you.

Pope Francis

Often those companions of yours are right, because some, some Pastors, some Sisters, some lay people are truly boring . . . and hey have a face that you don’t know if it’s the face of a Pastor, of a man, of a woman that works in the Church or the face of a wake. You don’t know – a funeral!

The joy of the Gospel — the Gospel always brings joy. And this is true not only for Pastors, but also for the laity, for all. Rather, I would say that I have often found in parishes more bitter laymen with a “vinegar” face, than priests or sisters. Because so often, when a layman is not well inserted in the community, he starts this power game inside, internal fight sometimes you meet people that yes, are good, work – I don’t know, in Catholic Action, in Caritas, in the many things that a parish has –, but <they are> always tense, not free. I don’t know why, perhaps there is a promotion <in question>, I don’t know . . . The intention isn’t altogether clear.  They are good people but without the freedom of the joy of the Gospel. And we must have this always before our eyes. If I am a true believer, this must be expressed in joy, the joy that is Jesus’ gift, the joy of the Risen Jesus. Jesus didn’t resurrect so that we would cry. He resurrected to give us the joy and the certainty that we all expect. And this is lacking, it’s true, it’s lacking. The joy of the Gospel is lacking, not always, but many times.

Then you asked the question: “What can I do to convince my friends that the Church isn’t like this?” Congratulations! You didn’t say: “What must I do?” Because if you go and say that, they won’t believe you. You must do, you must do things with joy, And they will see and will say: But she is mad, why does she do things like this?” And you: “No, come and see. Come to see.” The Church grows not by proselytism  <but> by attraction, the attraction of witness. We are not a soccer team, a club that seeks adherents. No. We are disciples of Jesus, who try to do the things that the Gospel tells us. And this always makes joy flow. And they see the joy and say: “Why are they so joyful?” This happened in the early times of the Church. No sooner the Church was born, after the Holy Spirit came, the people looked at her and said: But look, they are happy! And how they love one another! They don’t “run” each other “down,” — because they were people whose joy attracted others. The Gospel can’t be lived without joy: joy is the condition to live the Gospel, understood? And if one of those that work in the parish has the habit of making breakfast with the caffe latte “with vinegar,” have him change the habit, and take a caffe latte, which will do him good!

Mattia:

Good evening, Pope Francis. I am Mattia and I’m 10. I want to ask you if it’s possible to say a prayer for my mother, who must have an operation, and to bless my family and all the families of this parish. Thank you.

Pope Francis

Thank you! You are called Mattia. Mattia did this: it’s something that you youngsters must always do: pray for your parents, pray for your parents. They pray for you, but do you pray for them? Or do you pray only when you have the hope that they will give you a present. No, not because they give this or that present. No. Pray for your parents. Think again! Parents are in need of your prayer because thus you help them go on. And when parents have a sickness, as in Mattia’s case – his mother must undergo an operation – pray more. They pray for you, but you must pray for them. The family – we began with the family – the family is made thus, also with prayer. Prayer makes the family grow, prayer for one another: for all, all, all. I would like to ask the youngsters here: Do you pray for your parents? I see that they don’t want to answer because the answer wouldn’t be very good . . . But we begin from now, from today and henceforth a prayer a day for the parents. It’s not necessary to say long prayers, no. Say: Lord, take care of mother, father, grandfather, grandmother,” like this, as we speak. But  pray for parents. And when parents have a problem, pray that the problem is resolved well – of health. The family is made with prayer for one another. And children must pray for their parents. Go forward so. I’ll pray for your mother

Prayer

We pray to Our Lady. She is Our Lady of Forgiveness. All of us are in need of being forgiven for something. May she help us!

[Hail Mary].

Blessing

I see that sign. It’s beautiful. “The parish is house of joy.” Shall we say it all together? The parish is . . . “House of joy.”

Don’t forget it. Thank you!

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s working translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

 

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