Pope Francis has suggested that there is a key to resolve and avoid problems: dialogue….
He made this point in his address to the volunteers of Telefono Amico Italia (“Helpline Italy,”) on the occasion of their 50 years of activity in the Vatican on Saturday, March 11, 2017. According to Vatican Radio, Telefono Amico is a volunteer service that makes itself available to anyone feeling lonely, depressed, anxious, or angry – or who simply wants to reach out and talk to a friendly person willing to listen. There are 700 volunteers staffing the organization’s telephones in 20 locations throughout Italy, from 10am to midnight every day. Below is a Zenit translation of the Pontiff’s words:
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am happy to receive you on the occasion of the 50 years of the activity of Helpline Italy, and I thank the President for his greeting words. Your Association is committed to helping persons who are in conditions of loneliness, loss and need listening, understanding and moral help. It is an important service, especially in today’s social context, marked by multiple hardships whose origin is often found in isolation and lack of dialogue. The great cities, although overcrowded, are an emblem of a kind of life that is not very human, to which individuals are becoming used to: widespread indifference, increasingly virtual and less personal communication, lack of solid values on which to base their existence, the culture of having and of appearing. In such a context, it is indispensable to foster dialogue and listening.
Dialogue enables us to know one another and to understand our mutual needs. In the first place, it manifests great respect, because it puts persons in an attitude of mutual openness, to receive the best aspects of an interlocutor. Moreover, dialogue is an expression of charity because, although not ignoring the differences, it can help to seek and share ways in view of the common good. Through dialogue we can learn to see the other not as a threat but as a gift of God, who challenges us and asks to be recognized. Dialogue helps persons to humanize relations and surmount misunderstandings. If there was more dialogue — but true dialogue! — in families, in work environments, in politics, so many issues would be resolved more easily! Problems grow, misunderstandings and divisions grow, when there is no dialogue.
A condition of dialogue is the capacity to listen, which, unfortunately, is not very common. To listen to the other requires patience and attention. Only one who is able to be silent, is able to listen. One cannot listen by talking: mouth closed. To listen to God, to listen to a brother or a sister who is in need of help, to listen to a friend, to a relative. God Himself is the most excellent example of listening: every time we pray, He listens to us, without asking anything and even precedes us and takes the initiative (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelli Gaudium, 24) in listening to our requests for help. The attitude of listening, of which God is model, spurs us to pull down walls of misunderstandings, and to create bridges of communication, overcoming isolation and closure in one’s small world. Someone said: to make peace in the world ears are lacking, people that are able to listen are lacking and then from there dialogue comes.
Dear friends, through dialogue and listening we can contribute to the building of a better world, rendering it a place of hospitality and respect, thus opposing divisions and conflicts. I encourage you to continue with renewed enthusiasm your precious service to society, so that no one remains isolated, so that the bonds of dialogue are not broken, and so that listening never fails, which is the simplest manifestation of charity to brothers.
While I count on your prayers, I entrust you to the protection of the Virgin Mary, Woman of silence and of listening, and from my heart I bless you, your collaborators and all those you “meet” by telephone in your daily work. Thank you.
[Blessing] And pray for me![Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT, by Virginia M. Forrester]