Pope in Turin: 'Offer hope through love'

Pope Francis speaks in front the basilica of Saint Mary Ausiliatrice during his pastoral visit to Turin, Italy, on 21 June 2015.

Young people, migrants and peace were among the themes addressed by Pope Francis on his visit to Turin. Addressing a crowd estimated at 100,000 in the northern Italian city, he reflected on the example of St John Bosco (also known as Don Bosco), whose bicentenary is being celebrated this year, saying that people should “be joyful, evangelise through education, and offer hope through love and compassion”.

While many had focused on the Pope’s veneration of the Shroud of Turin during his two-day visit, his comments came on Sunday in front the basilica of Saint Mary Ausiliatrice (Mary Help of Christians), which, he said, were unscripted and less formal than what had been prepared. He told the crowd to follow the example set by Don Bosco, a 19th-century Italian saint who founded the Salesians (and their sister order, the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians), in seeking out those in need: “Go forward anew to find the children and young people where they live: in the peripheries of the great cities, in areas of physical and moral danger.” He went on to describe youth unemployment as “a true and proper social plague,” and urged young people to hold onto their chastity “in this world where only pleasure is advertised”.

Pope Francis described migrants as “victims of inequality” – the victims of a throwaway economy and of wars. Referring to the trafficking of migrants from North Africa to Europe, he said: “It makes one cry to see the spectacle of recent days, in which human beings are treated like merchandise.”

Memories of the pastPope Francis prays before the Shroud of Turin, June 2015

In his homily, the Pope recalled fond childhood memories of his family's closeness to the Salesians, with whom he said he studied for a year when his mother was ill. One of them - Fr Lorenzo Massa – had created a football team for Argentinian street children in 1908. During the time that the Pope spent with the order, he said he was inspired to realise his vocation and this started him on his journey to life as a Jesuit.

During his visit to Turin, Pope Francis met 30 members of his family: his grandparents were married in the city in 1907. He also urged people to respect the elderly, saying that “grandparents are the memory of the past which traces our steps for the future.”

On the subject of peace, Francis called for an end to the arms trade, saying that anyone spoke of peace yet still manufactured or traded in arms was a hypocrite. However, he said, we have no need to worry about the future if we have the “rock” of God’s love. “Even we Christians run the risk of letting ourselves be paralyzed by fears of the future and to look for security in things that pass, or on a model of a closed society that tends to exclude more than include,” he said.