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Pope with Shalom Community © L'Osservatore Romano

Pope with Shalom Community © L'Osservatore Romano

35th Anniversary of the Foundation of the Shalom Community

“Teach and Help the Dialogue between Young People, Elderly”

Pope Francis recommended to the members of the Catholic Shalom Community to “teach and help the dialogue between young people and the elderly. “They have the wisdom, and they, even more so, are in need that you beat their heart so that they give you wisdom,” he said of the elderly.

This morning, September 4, 2017, the Pope received in audience the members of the Catholic Shalom Community to commemorate the 35th anniversary of its foundation, and he granted them a Plenary Indulgence, coinciding with their pilgrimage to Rome.

Moyses Azevedo, who founded the Community, offering his life, in the presence of Pope John Paul II in 1982 for the evangelization of young people, took part on the meeting, held in Paul VI Hall.

Here is a ZENIT translation of the complete text of Pope Francis’ address to the members of the Shalom Community, after hearing the testimonies of youths: Juan, Justine and Matteus.

The Pope’s Address

Thank you very much for the testimonies. I asked if I could speak in Spanish (shouts and applause) and not in Italian so that I can express myself better, however, speaking in Spanish one is speaking a bit of “portunol” (unsystematic mixture of Portuguese and Spanish) and a bit of “cocoliche (hybrid Spanish of Italian immigrants).

Juan, in prayer you found the meaning of life. In fraternal life, in community and in evangelization, that is, by praying, sharing and evangelizing you realized your life had meaning. See that the three verbs you used to explain this are verbs of movement, of going out of yourself. You went out of yourself in prayer to encounter God; you went out of yourself in sharing fraternity to encounter brothers, and you went out of yourself to go and evangelize to give good news, and the good news is mercy, in a world marked by hope and by difference.

It’s curious, mercy is something absolute; you “can’t” just speak of mercy, you “must” witness it, you “must” share It., you “must” show it by going out of yourself. To speak of mercy one must put the meat on the spit, otherwise it’s not understood. That witness, of not being shut-in on oneself, in one’s own interests, but in going out, going out to seek God; it’s not easy to seek God, it’s a whole journey . . . To go out sharing with others, not playing the privileged little boy who is given all the toys and everything for himself, <but> to go out to tell others that God is good, and that God is waiting for you even in the worst moments of life. And that is, perhaps, the message of mercy that one can give, no?

“Remember” the passage of the son who returns home, Luke, chapter 15.  There is a phrase that says: ”The father saw him while he was yet at a distance.” He <the son> had left some years earlier, which led him to spend all the money he had, <but the father> saw him coming from a distance. This makes me think that every day, perhaps every now and then the father went up to the terrace to see if his son was returning. God is like this with us, even in the worst moments of sin, even in the difficult moments, and the Gospel continues: the father saw him while yet at a distance and had compassion with the verb that in Hebrew means “moved in his innermost being, that innermost paternal and maternal being of God.

“And he ran and embraced him,” that son who was in the worst of sins, in the worst situation and when he said I will go to my father, the father was already waiting for him. That is mercy. Never despair. Moreover, it seems that our God has a special predilection for sinners, including the pure bloods, the worst. He waits for us. So I would suggest that you, continue to go out of yourself, and “make” all of them understand that there is a Father who waits for us with affection and tenderness with the first step we might want to take. This is what comes to me to tell you. Thank you.

Break the Mirror!

Justine, you received Baptism during the Jubilee of Mercy — lovely. You realized that your having encountered God led you to despoil yourself, to go out of being centered on yourself, outside, to the joy of living by God and for God.

One of the things – here all are young – and you also, young in the second round, are all young, young people of the second stage. One of the things that characterizes youth and God’s eternal youth – because God is eternally young, He is joy, the “joy,’” joy. Sadness is opposed to joy, a sadness that in fact what you came out of, you came out of something that causes sadness, which is to be centered on oneself, self-referential.

An image comes to me now, this culture that it’s for us to live, is very egoistic, very much so (he makes a gesture with his hands) it is about looking at oneself, it has a very large dosage of narcissism, of contemplating oneself and, therefore, of ignoring others. Narcissism causes sadness because one “lives” concerned about “making up” one’s soul every day, to appear better than what one “is,” of contemplating oneself if one “has” more beauty than others; it’s the illness of the mirror. Young people, break the mirror! Don’t look at yourselves in the mirror, because the mirror deceives.

Look outside, look at others, escape from this world, from this culture we are living, to which you made reference, which is consumerist and narcissistic, and if one day you want to look at yourselves in the mirror, I’ll give you advice: Look at yourselves in the mirror to laugh at yourselves! Try it one day. Look and start to laugh abut what you see there, it will refresh your soul; you are able to laugh at yourselves. That gives joy and saves us from the temptation of narcissism. Thank you, Justine.

Rootedness of the Heart

Matteus, you spoke “Brazilian Portuguese,” I have to ask you a question: Who is better? Pele or Maradona? (They all laugh). You passed through the tunnel of drugs for a long time, and it’s one of the instruments that the culture in which we live has to control us and, on the other hand, it’s like a necessity that we have to make ourselves subtle, invisible to ourselves, as if we were of air.

Drugs lead us to deny all that we are rooted in, carnal rootedness, historical rootedness, problematic rootedness, all that is rooted. It takes the root away and makes you live in a world without roots, uprooted from everything of your past, of your history, uprooted from your homeland, your family, your love, from everything. One lives in a world without any rootedness, and that’s the tragedy of drugs, young people who are totally uprooted, without real commitments, that is, without real commitments of flesh, because with drugs you don’t even feel your body.

And after having passed through that experience of invisibility, and after becoming aware again, you see all the rootedness there is in the heart. I ask each one of you, are you aware of all the rootedness there is in the heart?  Are you aware of your roots? Are you aware of your loves? Are you aware of your projects? Are you aware of the creative capacity you have? Are you aware that you are poets in this universe to create new and beautiful things?

To come off drugs is to become aware of that, testimony of one who comes <off them>, that is this question is asked that I have just asked you, each one answer himself: Am I aware of having my feet on the earth, with all that historical, social rootedness means? — rootedness of wisdom, of love, of projects, of creative capacity? And you want to correspond to God’s plan, and you realize that for you <that plan is> to console the sorrows of humanity and you “say” that you “want” this synodal journey, that in this synodal journey we must all discern our vocation, as you say, to see what the Lord wants to say to us in view of a mission.

Give Freely

I’m going to say it with just one word, which isn’t mine: give freely. If you are here, if we are here, it’s because we were brought freely here. Please, let’s give freely what we have received. Give freely what we have received. And to give freely fills your soul, it de-commercializes you, it makes you magnanimous, it teaches you to embrace and to kiss; it makes you smile, it unties you from all interest of an egoistic sort. Give freely what you have received freely. That is the teaching that He is inviting us to implement. Agreed?

The members of the Shalom Community answer:” Yes!” The Pope says: “Oh my God, look how they are! It seems that instead of giving them encouragement, I’m giving them a tranquilizer to put them to sleep.” (The young people shout and whistle. The Pope and all laugh).

What do the more adult, the oldest of the Shalom Community, have to do? What services is this world asking of us today, of this charism, of this Community? What service? Here there is something that is lovely, the oldest and the youngest. The service you are being asked for is dialogue, dialogue between you, to pass the torch, to pass the inheritance, to pass the charism, to pass your living <of these> but I want to go beyond, and one of the challenges that this world asks of us today is dialogue between young people and the elderly, and in this I base myself on your testimony.

Dialogue between Young People and the Elderly

 “Yes, Father, we’ve already heard you say that,” and you going to hear me say several times more – dialogue between young people and the elderly. Young people need to listen to the elderly, and the elderly need to listen to young people. “And, what am I going to do? A youth might ask. What am I going to do, talking to an elderly man? How boring that will be.

 I have the experience of having seen it many times in the other diocese, to go, for instance, to a Rest Home, to a Shelter and to play the guitar to the elderly and, o.k., yes, they play the guitar . . . and then spontaneous dialogue begins, it happens, on its sown, and the young people don’t want to leave there, because wisdom comes out of the elderly, but a wisdom that touches their heart and pushed them to go on.

Elderly people are not for you young people to put away in the closet! The elderly are not to be kept hidden; the elderly are waiting for a youth to go to make them talk, to make them dream and you, young people, need to receive from those men and women those dreams, those hopes that will make you live.

That would be my answer to the experience that the older ones of the Shalom Movement should have with the younger ones: to teach and help the dialogue between young people and the elderly. “Yes, I talk with my mother, my father . . .” No, your mother and your father aren’t elderly. “Talk” with your grandfather and grandmother, namely, the <older> generation. They have the wisdom and they, even more so, have the need that you beat their heart so that they give you wisdom, and that’s the recommendation I give you.

Encourage yourselves, encourage yourselves in that dialogue; that dialogue is promise for the future; that dialogue will help us go forward. I don’t know if I answered your question. Very good, thank you.

I don’t know how the program continues now . . . but I remained with a doubt at the end of the last question, in the dialogue of young people and the elderly: Is Moyses young or old? (Laughter and applause)


About Rosa Die Alcolea

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