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  • Don’t be naive, go against the current! Pope’s off-the-cuff talk with the youth of Turin

    Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Francis gave when he met with youngsters and young people gathered in Vittorio Square in Turin on Sunday evening.


    24 June 2015



    Here is a translation of the Holy Father’s extemporaneous address; the transcription was provided by the Vatican.



    Thank you to Chiara, Sara and Luigi. Thank you because the questions are on the subject of the three words of John’s Gospel that we heard: love, life, friends. Three words that are intertwined in John’s text, and one explains the other: one cannot speak of life in the Gospel without speaking of love – if we speak of true life — and one cannot speak of love without this transformation from servants to friends. And these three words are so important for life but all three have a common root: the desire to live. And I permit myself to recall here the words of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, a youth like you: “To live, not to live poorly!” To live!


    You know that it is awful to see a youth “still,” who lives, but he lives as  — allow me the word – as a vegetable: he does things, but his life is not a life that moves, it is still. But know that it makes me very sad at heart to see young people retire at 20! Yes, they grow old soon … Therefore, when Chiara asked that question on love: what makes a youth not retire is the desire to love, the desire to give what is most beautiful of man, and that God has, which is most beautiful, because the definition that John gives of God is “God is love.” And when a youth loves, lives, grows, he does not retire. He grows, grows, grows and gives.


    But what is love? “Is it the soap opera, Father? What we see in TV novels?” Some think that that is love. It is so good to speak of love, very beautiful, beautiful, beautiful things can be said. However, love has two axes on which it pivots, and if a person, a youth doesn’t have these two axes — these two dimensions of love — it’s not love. First of all, love is more in works than in words: love is concrete. Two hours ago I spoke to the Salesian Family of the concreteness of its vocation – And I see that they feel themselves young because they are here in front! They feel young! Love is concrete, it is more in works than in words. It’s not love just to say: “I love you, I love all people.” No. What do you do for love? Love gives itself. Think that God began to speak of love when he was involved with his people, when He chose his people, He made a Covenant with his people, He saved his people, He forgave so many times — God has so much patience! — He did, He did gestures of love, works of love.


    And the second dimension, the second axis on which love pivots is that love always communicates itself, that is, love listens and responds, love is made in dialogue, in communion: it communicates itself. Love is neither deaf nor mute, it communicates. These two dimensions are very useful to understand what love is, which is not a romantic sentiment of the moment or a story, no. It’s concrete, it’s in the works. And it communicates itself, that is, it is always in dialogue.


    So Chiara, I will answer your question: “Often we feel disappointed in love. In what does the greatness of Jesus’ love consist? How can we experience his love?” And now, I know that you are good and will permit me to speak sincerely. I don’t want to be a moralist but I would like to say a word that does not please, an unpopular word. Sometimes the Pope must also risk things to say the truth. Love is in the works, in communicating, but love is very respectful of persons, it does not use persons, that is, love is chaste. And to you young people in this world, in this hedonistic world, in this world where only pleasure gets publicity, having a good time, having a beautiful life, I tell you: be chaste, be chaste.


    All of us in life have gone through moments in which this virtue was very difficult, but it is in fact the way of genuine love, of a love that is able to give life, which does not seek to use the other for one’s own pleasure. It is a love that considers the life of the other person sacred: “I respect you, I don’t want to use you, I don’t want to use you.” It’s not easy. We all know the difficulties in surmounting the “easy” and hedonistic conception of love. Forgive me if I say something you didn’t expect, but I ask you: make the effort to live love chastely.


    And from this we draw a consequence: if love is respectful, if love is in works, if love is in communicating, love sacrifices itself for others. Look at the love of parents, of so many mothers, of so many fathers who in the morning arrive at work tired because they haven’t slept well to look after their sick child – this is love! This is respect. This is not having a good time. This is – we go to another key word – this is “service.” Love is service. It is to serve others. When after the washing of the feet Jesus explained the gesture to the Apostles, he taught that we are made to serve one another, and if I say that I love but don’t serve the other, don’t help the other, don’t make him go forward, don’t sacrifice myself for him, this isn’t love. You have carried the Cross [the WYD Cross]: there is the sign of love. That history of love of God involved in works and dialogue, with respect, with forgiveness, with patience during so many centuries of history with His people, ends there — his Son on the Cross, the greatest service, which is to give one’s life, to sacrifice oneself, to help others. It’s not easy to speak of love, it’s not easy to live love. However, with these things that I have answered, Chiara, I think I’ve helped you in something, in the questions you asked me. I don’t know, I hope they will be useful to you.


    And thanks to you, Sara, passionate about theater. Thank you. “I think of Jesus’ words: To give one’s life.” We spoke about this now. “Often we breathe a sense of mistrust in life.” Yes, because there are situations that make us think: “But, is it worthwhile to live like this? What can I expect from this life?” We think, in this way, of wars. Sometimes I have said that we are living the Third World War, but in pieces. In pieces: there is war in Europe, there is war in Africa, there is war in the Middle East, there is war in other countries … But, can I have confidence in such a life? Can I trust the world leaders? When I go to give my vote for a candidate, can I trust that he won’t lead my country into war? If you only trust men, you have lost!


    It makes me think one thing: people, leaders, entrepreneurs that call themselves Christians, and produce arms! This gives some mistrust: they call themselves Christians! “No, no, Father, I don’t produce them, no, no …. I only have my savings, my investments in arms factories.” Ah! And why? “Because the interest is somewhat higher …” And a double face is also a current coin today: to say something and do another. Hypocrisy …l But let’s see what happened in the last century: in ’14, ’15, in ’15 in fact. There was that great tragedy in Armenia. So many died. I don’t know the figure: more than a million certainly. But where were the great powers of the time? Were they looking elsewhere? Why? Because they were interested in war: their war! And those that died were persons, second class human beings. Then, in the 30s and 40s the tragedy of the Shoah. The great powers had photographs of the railroad lines that took trains to the concentration camps, such as Auschwitz, to kill the Jews, and also Christians, also the Roma, also homosexuals, to kill them there. But tell me, why didn’t they bomb that? Interest! And shortly after, almost contemporaneously, were the lager in Russia: Stalin … How many Christians suffered, were killed! The great powers divided Europe among themselves as a cake. So many years had to pass before arriving at “certain” freedom. It’s that hypocrisy of speaking of peace and producing arms, and even selling arms to this one who is at war with that one, and to that one who is at war with this one!


    I understand what you say about mistrust in life, also today when we are living in the throwaway culture, because whatever is not of economic usefulness is discarded. Children are disposed of, because they are not developed or because they are killed before they are born; the elderly are disposed of, because they are not useful or are left there, to die, a sort of hidden euthanasia, and they are not helped to live; and now young people are disposed of: think of that 40% of young people who are without work. It is in fact a rejection! But why? Why are man and woman not at the center of the global economic system, as God wants, but the god of money. And everything is done for money.


    In Spanish, there is a good saying that says: “the monkey dances for money.” I translate: For money, the monkey also dances. And thus, with this disposable culture, can one trust life? — with that sense of challenge that widens, widens, widens? A youth who can’t study, who hasn’t work, who has the shame of not feeling worthy because he doesn’t have work, doesn’t earn his life. But how many times these young people end in addictions? How many times do they commit suicide? The statistics on the suicides of young people are not well known. Or how often these young people go to fight with terrorists, at least to do something, for an ideal. I understand this challenge. And because of this Jesus told us not to put our security in riches, in worldly powers. How can I trust life? What can I do, how can I live a life that doesn’t destroy, that isn’t a life of destruction, a life that doesn’t dispose of people? How can I live a life that won’t disappoint me?


    And I pass to answer Luigi’s question: he spoke of a project of sharing, namely of connection, of construction. We must go ahead with our plans of construction, and this life doesn’t disappoint. If you get involved there, in a project of construction, of help – we think of street children, of migrants, of so many in need, but not only to give them to eat one day, two days, but to promote them with education, with unity in the joy of the Oratories and so many things, but things that build, then that sense of mistrust in life recedes, goes away. What must I do for this? Not retire too soon. Do. Do. And I’ll say a word: to go against the current, to go against the current. For you, young people, who are living this economic situation, which is also cultural, hedonistic, consumerist with “soap bubble” values, with such values one doesn’t go forward. Do constructive things, even if they are small, but which bring us together, which bring us together with our ideals: this is the best antidote against this mistrust of life, against this culture that only offers you pleasure: to have a good time, to have money and not think of other things.


    Thank you for the questions. To you, Luigi, I have answered you in part, no? Go against the current, namely, be courageous and creative, be creative. Last summer I received, one afternoon — it was August … Rome was dead — a group of boys and girls had spoken to me on the telephone who were camping in several cities of Italy, and they came to me — I told them to come — but poor things, all dirty, tired … but joyful! Because they had done something “against the current!”


    So often advertising wants to convince us that this is good, that that is good, and it makes us believe that they are “diamonds”; but be careful, we are sold glass! And we must go against this, not be naive. Not buy filth that we are told are diamonds.


    And to end, I would like to repeat Pier Giorgio Frassati’s word: if you want to do something good in life, live, don’t live poorly. Live!


    But you are intelligent and will surely say to me: “But, Father, you speak this way because you are in the Vatican, have so many Monsignors there that do your work, you are tranquil and don’t know what everyday life is …” Yes, someone could think so. The secret is to understand well where one lives. On this earth – and I also said this to the Salesian Family — at the end of the 19th century there were bad conditions for the growth of youth: there was full Masonry, even the Church couldn’t do anything, there were priest haters, there were also Satanists … It was one of the worst moments and one of the worst places of the history of Italy. However, if you would like to do a good task at home, go to see how many men and women Saints were born at that time. Why? Because they realized that they had to go against the current in relation to the culture, to that way of living. Reality, live the reality. And if this reality is glass and not diamonds, I look for the reality against the current and I make my reality, but something that is of service to others. Think of your Saints of this land, what they did!


    And thank you, thank you, thank you so much! Always love, life, friends. However, these words can only be lived by “going out”: always going out to take something. If you stay still, you won’t do anything in life and you will ruin your own.


    I forgot to tell you that I will now deliver the written address. I knew your questions, and I wrote something on your questions; but it’s not what I said, this came to me from my heart; and I give the address to the one in charge, and you make it public [he handed the sheets to the priest in charge of youth pastoral care]. There are so many university students here, but be careful of believing that the University is only to study with the head: to be a University student also means to go out, to go out in service, to the poor especially! Thank you.


    [Original text: Italian]

    [Translation by ZENIT]