WYD: Pope tells young inmates that a society is healthy only if it can integrate

Francis celebrated a penitential liturgy in a youth detention centre. He focused his reflection "telling tales and gossiping" in opposition to "conversion".

Panama City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis led a penitential service on the second morning of his stay in Panama at the Centro de Cumplimiento de Menores Las Garzas de Pacora, a youth detention centre located some 40 kilometres from the capital, Panama City. Some 250 inmates were present, and the pope confessed three of them.

Before the homily, Francis focused his reflection on two traits: telling tales and gossiping vs conversion. The first are found among the Pharisees and the scribes; the second in Jesus. The reference here is to the Gospel story (Lk 15:2) in which Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners and talks about the Good Shepherd.

Pharisees and scribes “told tales,” said the pope, “scandalised and upset by Jesus’s behaviour” in “accepting sinners and eating with them. [. . .] In doing so, they tried to exclude and discredit him before everyone, but ended up highlighting one of his most typical and distinctive attitudes.” Indeed, Jesus chose instead to "stay close and offer new opportunities" to others, whilst the Pharisees "did not accept and refused this choice to stay close and offer new opportunities.

For some people, said the Holy Father, it seems “easier to give titles and labels that freeze and stigmatise not only people’s past but also their present and future. Labels that ultimately produce nothing but divisions: here the good, there the bad; here the righteous, there the sinners".

For Francis, "This attitude pollutes everything because it raises an invisible wall that leads people to think that all problems will be magically solved by marginalising, separating and isolating. [. . .] Instead, the whole Gospel is marked by this other aspect that is born no less than from the heart of God".

The Lord’s love "takes charge of the complexity of life and of every situation". This love is "capable of offering paths and opportunities for integration and transformation, healing and forgiveness, paths of salvation". Indeed, Jesus broke with "the inner tale telling that comes out of those who, having wept over their own sin, and aware of their mistake, do not believe they can change".

Gossiping and holier-than-though attitudes must be opposed by taking the paths of inclusion and integration. "A society becomes ill when it is not able to celebrate the transformation of its children; a community grows sick when it lives off the tale telling that crushes and condemns, without any sensitivity.”

“A society is fruitful when it is able to generate processes of inclusion and integration, of taking responsibility and creating opportunities and alternatives that offer new possibilities to its young, when it commits to create the future through community, education and work."