Sarajevo (AsiaNews) – In his meeting with 800 young people (pictured) at the St John Paul II Centre in Sarajevo, the last in his schedule, Pope Francis stressed that they must reclaim “hope,” act as brotherly “bridges,” and true, honest and responsible peacemakers – not like “Some of the earth’s powerful people [who] talk and say nice things about peace, but [. . .] also sell weapons!
As he did when he met priests in the cathedral, Francis put aside his prepared speech and chose to answer questions from three young people, about choosing computer and TV programmes that “do good” as well as youth’s vocation to build bridges, not walls, and work for peace.
In his prepared speech, the pope urged young people to confront “the challenges of our times: certainly material challenges, but more so those which concern the vision of the human person” without “the temptation to flee, to avoid the problems, becoming self-absorbed, taking refuge in alcohol, drugs, or ideologies which preach hatred and violence.” In view of this, young people can “reclaim the hope in your present circumstances”.
As for the questions young people had for him, the first one concerned the fact that the Pope, in an interview, said he did not watch television.
"Yes,” Francis said; no television. “In mid-1990, one night I felt it was not doing me any good; it was alienating me, making me estranged from myself. Therefore, I decided not to watch it anymore. If I wanted to watch a good movie, I would go the archbishopric’s TV centre and would watch it there, but only that movie. Television was alienating me, making me estranged from myself; it was not helping.
“It is true; I am from the Stone Age! I am ancient. I realise that things have changed, that today we live in the age of the image. This is very important. [However,] In the age of the image, we have to do the same as in the age of books, choose what does me good! Hence two thoughts.
“First, television centre have a responsibility of making television programmes that do good, that do good to our values, that build society, that lead us forward, that do not demean us. [They must] make programmes that help us so that values, true values, become stronger and prepare us for life. This is television centres’ responsibility.
“Second, we must be able to pick programmes. It is our responsibility! If I see that a programme does me no good, demeans me, makes me become vulgar, and from there leads me to filth, I must switch channel. This is how we did it in my age, the Stone Age. When a book was good, we read it. When a book was harmful, we threw it away.
“Thirdly, about bad fantasy, the fantasy that kills the soul. If you are young, live tied to the computer, and become a slave to the computer, you lose your freedom! If you seek out filthy programmes with your computer, you lose your dignity! Watch television, use the computer but [seek out] beautiful things, great things, those that makes us grow. That is good!"
In answering the second question, the pope said he felt the "joy and love" young Bosnians have towards him.
"To tell you the truth, when I meet young people, I feel the joy and the love they have. Not only for me, but for ideals, for life. They want to grow! But you are unique. You – I believe – are the first generation after the war. In the words of Mgr Semren (auxiliary bishop of Banja Luka, in charge of the youth ministry), you are like flowers in springtime, seeking to go forward and not back to destruction, to the things that make us enemies of each other. I see in you this desire and enthusiasm. This is new to me.
“I see that you do not want destruction; you do not want to make enemies of each other. You want to walk together, as Nadežda said. This is great! I see this in this generation, even in you, all of you. I am certain of it! Look inside of yourself . . . You have the same experience as Darko. We are not them and me; we are 'us'. We want to be 'us', not to destroy the nation, not to destroy the country.
“You are Muslim, you are Jewish, you are Orthodox, you are Catholic . . . But we are 'us'. This is what peace making is! This is what belongs to your generation and your joy. You have a great vocation, a great vocation. Never build walls, only bridges! This is the joy I see in you."
The third question asked the pope about peace.
“In answering this question, I shall say a bit of what I said before. Everyone talks about peace. Some of the earth’s powerful people talk and say nice things about peace, but they also sell weapons! From you I expect honesty: honesty in what you think, in what you feel and in what you do. Those three things together. The opposite is called hypocrisy!
“Years ago I saw a movie about this city. I cannot remember the title, but the German version, the one I saw, was 'Die Brücke' ('The Bridge'). I do not know how you say it in your language . . . I saw in it how a bridge always unites. When the bridge is not used to go towards each other, when it is a forbidden bridge, it becomes a city’s ruin, the bane of existence. For this reason, from you, from this first post-war generation, I expect honesty and not hypocrisy – unity, bridge building, and a chance to go from one side to the other. This is brotherhood.
As he prepared to take his leave, Francis said Peace be with you! “Mir Vama is the task I leave you. Make peace, all together! These doves are a sign of peace, the peace that will bring us joy. Peace is done between everyone, everyone: Muslims, Jews, Orthodox, Catholics and [members of] other religions. We are all brothers! We all worship the One God! May there never, never, be separation between us! Brotherhood and unity. 'Mir Vama!'"