02/02/2023, 14.13
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Pope from Congo: tribalism and corruption pollute communities

After meeting with victims of violence who were able to forgive, Francis today in Kinshasa asked young people to build "with their own hands" a better future. The thanks to catechists: "Make communities grow through prayer and service."

Kinshasa (AsiaNews) - "What are these hands of mine for? To build or to destroy, to give or to hoard, to love or to hate?" This is the question Pope Francis in Kinshasa this morning delivered to the Congolese youth he met at the Martyrs' Stadium.

The moment was still marked by the echo of yesterday afternoon's meeting with the victims of violence in the east of the country, who by laying a machete and a mat at the pontiff's feet-symbols of the relatives killed and the rapes they suffered-expressed their choice to forgive.  

Gestures of people who had the courage to break the chain of hatred in a country deeply scarred by war. Gestures to which the pope, this morning, reconnected the challenge of each person's personal choices, inviting them to look at their own hands.

"All hands are similar," the pontiff noted, "but none is equal to the other; no one has hands equal to yours, so you are a unique, unrepeatable and incomparable wealth. No one in history can replace you." And it is precisely from the fingers of each hand that from Kinshasa Francis delivered his five "ingredients for the future" to young people. 

"To the thumb, the finger closest to the heart," he explained, "corresponds prayer, which makes life pulsate. "Raise your hands to Him every day to praise and bless Him," the pope recommended, "cry out to Him the hopes of your heart, confide to Him the innermost secrets of life: the person you love, the wounds you carry inside, the dreams in your heart. Tell him about your neighborhood, neighbors, teachers, classmates, friends and colleagues; about your country. God loves this living, concrete prayer, made from the heart. It allows him to intervene, to enter the folds of life in a special way. To come with his power of peace."

Instead, the index finger is the finger of relationships with others. Francis urges us to beware of "individualistic choices": with drugs "you hide from others, from real life, to feel omnipotent; and in the end you find yourself lacking everything. But think also of addiction to occultism and witchcraft, which lock you up in the grip of fear, revenge and anger."

However, it is also necessary to guard against "the temptation to point the finger at someone, to exclude the other because he or she is of a different origin from yours, from regionalism, from tribalism, which seem to strengthen you in your group and instead represent the negation of community." He asks the youth, "Have you ever talked to people from other groups or have you always been closed in your own? Have you ever listened to other people's stories, approached their suffering? Do you see someone lonely, suffering, neglected? Approach them. Not to show them how good you are, but to give them your smile and offer them your friendship."

The pope then associated the middle finger with the call to honesty, to "not allow yourselves to be ensnared in the laces of corruption." "Do not allow yourselves to be manipulated by individuals or groups who seek to use you to keep your country in the spiral of violence and instability, so as to continue to control it without regard for anyone. Each of you has a treasure that no one can steal from you. It is your choices: do not allow your lives to be dragged down by the polluted current."

He recalled the example of Floribert Bwana Chui, a young man who 15 years ago, when he was only 26 years old, was killed in Goma for blocking the passage of spoiled foodstuffs that would have damaged people's health. "He could have let go," he commented, "they would not have found out and he would have even gained. But as a Christian, he prayed, thought of others and chose to be honest, saying no to the filth of corruption."

The ring finger is the weakest. "It reminds us," the pope continued, "that the great goals of life, love above all, pass through frailties, labors and difficulties. And the strength that keeps us going in these situations is precisely forgiveness, the recurring theme of these days in the Democratic Republic of Congo. "To forgive is to change the course of history. It is to lift up those who have fallen. It is to accept the idea that no one is perfect and that not only I, but everyone, has the right to be able to start again."

Finally, the little finger, the smallest finger, the icon of service. From this land Francis gave special thanks to catechists, a vital presence here as in so many other Churches around the world. "Make your communities grow," he told them, "with the clarity of your prayer and service. So many are mobilized because they are magnetized by their own interests; you are not afraid to invest in the good, in the proclamation of the Gospel, preparing yourselves in a passionate and adequate way, giving life to organized, long-term projects. And do not be afraid to make your voices heard, because not only the future, but also today is in your hands: be at the center of the present."

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