Turin (AsiaNews) – Love, friendship and attitude towards life must be lived in light of the teachings of Jesus. This is the only way to understand them in their fullness, said Pope Francis in his last public address to a large gathering of young people in the city’s Vittorio Square on the first day of his pastoral visit to Turin.
On this occasion, the Holy Father blessed the World Youth Day Cross, as it made a stop on its way to Krakow, setting for the upcoming world gathering. He also answered three questions from young people. One of the latter was a 19-year-old disabled education student who is scheduled to take her exams. She asked the pope to explain "the greatest love, that of Christ”. Another, 30-year-old Sara, “has a full life" but cannot find work. A young man who helps out in seven oratories asked the pontiff about the idea of friendship with Christ. The pope’s long answer follows (Transcribed and translated by AsiaNews).
Thanks Clara, Sara and Luigi. Thank you for the questions about the three words we heard from the Gospel of John: love, life and friends. In John’s text, these three words meet, and one explains the other. It is not possible to talk about life in the Gospels without talking about love and life. It is also not possible to talk about love without this transformation, from servants into friends.
These three words are very important to life. All three have a common root, the desire to live. Let me quote the words of Blessed Piergiorgio Frassati who said, “live, don’t just exist”. You know how bad it is to see young people idle away, vegetating - excuse me for that expression. Some young people are involved in things but . . . life is life. Their life goes as life does, stuck, unable to move. You don’t know how sad it is for me to see young people retire from life at the age of 20. They have aged precociously. What then? Thus, when Chiara asked about love, what makes a young person not retire early . . . is the desire to love, to give what is most beautiful to man and God. John’s definition of God is “God is love”.
When a young person lives, he loves, grows and does not retire. He grows, grows, grows and gives. What is love? Is it one of the boring soap operas we see [on TV]? For some, that is love. Speaking about love is so beautiful. One could say many beautiful things. However, love moves on two axles. If someone, a young person, does not have these two axles, these two aspects, it is not love.
First of all, love is more in deeds than in words. Love is real. When I spoke to the Salesian family two hours ago, I spoke about the concreteness of their vocation. I told them that they feel young, and here they stand in the front row [Applause and laughter]. Love is real, more in deeds than in words. Saying "I love you" is not love. What will one do for love? One gives love. Remember that God began to speak about love when He became involved with His people. When he chose his people, he made a covenant with his people, and saved his people. God has a lot of patience. He forgave so many times; indeed, that is what he did! He did things, works of love.
The second aspect, the second axle on which love turns, is the love that one always communicates. It is, in other words, the love that listens and answers. Love is done in dialogue, in communion, it communicates. Love is neither deaf nor dumb, it communicates. These two aspects are very useful to understand what love is. It is not a romantic feeling, fleeting, or a story. No. It is something real, in what one does, and communicates. It is in dialogue, always. So, Chiara, I shall answer that question. However, we often feel let down, by love. What is Jesus’ love? How can we experience it?
Now, I know that you are good kids and I will speak truthfully. I do not want to moralise, but I do want to say something I don’t like, something unpopular. Even the pope sometimes has to take risks on things to tell the truth. Love is in deeds, in how one communicates; love is very respectful of people. It does not use people, i.e. love is chaste. And you, young people, in this hedonistic world [of ours], in this world where only advertising, pleasure . . . the good life . . . [prevail], I tell you: be chaste! Be chaste!
In life, all of us have been through times when this virtue was hard [to respect]. Yet, it is the proof of true love, one that knows how to give life, one that does not try to use others for one’s own pleasure. This love makes holy the life of the other person. "I respect you; [therefore,] I will not use you." It is not easy. We all know how hard it is to get over facile and hedonistic notions of love.
Forgive me, but let me ask you to make an effort to live love chastely. From this, one consequence follows. If love is respectful, if it is in deeds and communication, then this love is about making sacrifices for others. Look at parental love, that of countless mothers and fathers who each morning arrive at work tired because they could not sleep in order to take care of their sick child. This is love. This is respect. This is not the good life; this is service, another key concept. Love is service; it is service to others. When after the washing of the feet, Jesus explained his act to the Apostles, he taught them that we are made to serve one another. If I say that I love and I do not serve or help others, or move them forward, or make no sacrifices, then that is not love. You carried the Cross; that is the sign of God. Those deeds, for many centuries of history, end there: His Son on the Cross. The greatest service is to give one’s life, sacrificing oneself, to help others.
It is not easy to talk about love, to live love, but with what I said, Chiara, I believe I have gone some way in answering the question that you had for me. I don’t know, but I hope I have succeeded.
Thank you, Sara, our theatre aficionado. We often feel distrust in life. Indeed, we do! Because there are situations that make us think, "Well, is this life worth it? Is it right to live this way? What can I expect from this life?"
Let us now turn to the wars. I sometimes said that we are in the middle of World War Three, but piecemeal. There is war in Europe. There is war in Africa. There is war in the Orient. There is war in other countries. Can I trust such a world? Can I trust world leaders? When I vote for a candidate, can I trust that he or she will not lead my country to war?
If you trust only people, you have lost. [Laughter and applause] One thought comes to mind: people, CEOs, business people who call themselves Christian and [yet] manufacture weapons. [Applause] This leads to a loss in trust. They call themselves Christian! “As a matter of fact, Father, I don’t make weapons. I just have investments in companies that manufacture weapons. Right! Why? Because of higher earnings.” Being two-faced is so conventional. Doing one thing and saying another. [Applause]. What hypocrisy! Let us see what happened the last century.
There was a great tragedy in Armenia in 1914 and 1915. [Applause] Many, millions died. Where were the great powers of that time? They turned the other way, and were interested in their war, and in those deaths. They [the Armenians] were third class human beings [Applause]. Later, in the 1930s and 1940s [came] the tragedy of the Holocaust. The great powers had photographs of the railway routes that brought the trains to the concentration camps, to Auschwitz, to kill Jews, Christians, Roma, homosexuals . . . Tell me then, why did they not bomb them? [Out of] interests, eh? [Applause]. A little later, in almost the same period, there were concentration camps in Russia. Stalin! How many Christians suffered and were killed? The great powers divided up Europe, like a pie. It took many years before we got some freedom.
It is hypocritical to talk about peace and make weapons, or sell them to the two warring sides. [Applause] I understand when you talk about the loss of trust in life. Even today, I like to say that we are living in a culture of exclusion, because what is not economically useful is excluded; children because either they are not born or are killed before they are born; seniors because they are no longer useful and are left to die, a sort of hidden euthanasia; and now young people when considering that 40 per cent is jobless. This is true exclusion! [Applause]
But why? Because, contrary to God’s will, men and women are not at the centre of the world’s economic system. The mighty buck is. Everything is done for money. [Applause] In Spanish there is a saying, "The little monkey will dance for money." [Applause]. In this culture of exclusion, can we trust life or does the loss of trust grow? Young people who cannot study, who do not work, who feel ashamed and unworthy because they have no job and earn no living . . . How often do they become addicts or commit suicide? We don’t have clear statistics about suicide among young people. How many times do they go to fight with the terrorists, at least to do something for an ideal? I understand this challenge.
For this reason, Jesus used to say not to trust riches and worldly powers. How can I trust life, how can I live a life that does not destroy, or turn into a life of destruction, a life that excludes people? How can I live? Live a life that does not disappoint me?
Let me answer Luigi. He spoke about sharing; i.e. about connecting, building. We must go forward with our construction plans. Such a life cannot disappoint. If one takes part in a construction project, one of help – helping street kids, migrants, the many who need food but also involvement – the loss of trust goes away. What should I do for this? Do not retire too soon! [You must] do, do [things]. [Applause].
Let me tell you something else: go against the flow. For you young people, stuck in the existing economic, cultural, hedonistic and consumeristic situation, with values like soap bubbles, such values lead nowhere. You must do constructive things, small ones, that unite us and our ideals. This is the best antidote to the loss of trust, to a culture that offers only pleasure – living high on the hog, with money and no worry in the world. [You must] go against the flow; be creative.
Last summer, in August, when Rome was as good as dead, I met a group of young men and women, who travelled across Italy camping here and there. They came to see me after we spoke on the phone. They were a sad sight, dirty and tired, but how happy they were. Because they went against the flow [Applause]. Often, advertisers try to convince us that this is good, that that is good. They try to make us believe that they are like diamonds when in fact they sell glass and more. We must go against this; we must not be naïve. [We must] not buy the garbage they sell as if it were diamonds.
Finally, let me reiterate what Pier Giorgio Frassati said. If you want to make it, if you want to do something good in life, live, don’t just exist. You are smart, and you will certainly say, "Father, you speak like this because you are in the Vatican [Laughter]. You have many monsignors who work for you. Things are quiet for you, and you don’t know what everyday life is." Indeed, some people might think this. The secret is to understand where one lives. In this land, in the late nineteenth century, things were very bad for young people. [There were] free masons, fiercely anti-clerical, and the Church could do nothing about it. There were devil-worshippers. It was one of the worst period in Italian history. [However,] if you want to write a good home report, go and find those male and female saints who were born at this time. They knew it and went against the flow of that culture.
Live reality! If it is glass and not diamond, try to go against the flow and do the right thing. Thank you, thank you, thank you very much [Applause]. Always love, life, friends. But one can only experience these words by going out, always going out to bring something. If one stands still, one will accomplish nothing in life, except ruin it.