Pope answers questions
In a style that seems to have become almost a signature of the current pontificate, Pope Francis stepped out of yet another scripted session to engage in a spontaneous question-and-answer period with hundreds of children and teens.
He gave a short summary of his prepared speech and then took questions from the students instead. With sensitivity and humour, the Pope answered ten frank questions, that ranged from his priestly vocation to his decision to forego the usual papal apartment in the apostolic palace.
When asked if it was a difficult to leave his family and friends and become a priest, the Pope said it was. “It is not easy but there are beautiful moments and Jesus helps you and gives you a little joy.” When asked why he wanted to join the Jesuits, he said he wanted to be a missionary and he was attracted by the religious order’s missionary zeal and activity.
When asked why he decided to renounce the usual papal apartment in the apostolic palace, he said it was a question of personality, not of luxury. “I have a need to live among people.” he said. “If I were to live alone, perhaps a little isolated, it would not be good for me. … It is my personality. … It is not an issue of personal virtue, it is only that I cannot live alone.”
When a student doubting his faith asked for words of encouragement, the Pope likened the faith to a long walk. “To walk is an art,” he said, “To walk is the art of looking at the horizon, thinking about where I want to go but also enduring the fatigue. And many times, the walk is difficult, it is not easy… There is darkness… even days of failure… one falls… But always think this: do not be afraid of failure.
“Do not be afraid of falling. In the art of walking, what is important is not avoiding the fall but not remaining fallen. Get up quickly, continue on, and go,” he said to applause. “But it is also terrible to walk alone, terrible and boring. Walking in community with friends, with those who love us, this helps us … get to the end.”
In response to a question by a teacher about the role of Catholics in politics, the Pope said participation in politics is a Christian obligation. “We, Christians, cannot ‘play Pilate’ and wash our hands. We cannot,” he said. “We must participate in politics because politics is one of the highest forms of charity because it seeks the common good. And Christian lay people must work in politics.” “It is not easy; politics has become too tainted. But I ask myself: Why has it become tainted? Because Christians have not participated in politics with an evangelical spirit? … To work for the common good is a Christian duty, and many times the way in which to work towards it is through politics.”
In response to a student’s question about what can be done to help young people in Italy face the current crisis, the Pope offered a reflection on the nature of the crisis. He pointed out that the crisis is worldwide and not just centered in Italy. “The crisis is not a terrible thing,” he said. “It is true that the crisis makes us suffer, but we must – and you, young people, mainly – we must know how to read the crisis. What does this crisis mean? What must I do to help to resolve the crisis?” “The crisis that we are living in this moment is a human crisis… Because this problem of employment, the economy, are consequences of the great human problem. That which is in crisis is the value of the human person and we must defend the human person,” he said.
“Today, the person doesn’t matter; money matters. … The person is in crisis because the person today – listen well, this is true – is a slave! We must free ourselves from these economic and social structures that enslave us. And this is your task,” he told the young people.
He later exhorted the students: “Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! … And who robs you of hope? The spirit of the world, riches, the spirit of vanity, arrogance, pride. All of these things rob you of hope. Where do I find hope? In the poor Jesus, Jesus who became poor for us.”
From Vatican Radio 8/6/13, edited