Yesterday afternoon, Sunday 11th March, Pope Francis celebrated the Liturgy of the Word in the church of St Maria in Trastevere, the home base of the Community of Sant’Egidio. He met once more the “people of Sant’Egidio”. Together with Andrea Riccardi, who initiated the path of the Community 50 years ago in Rome, the Pope encountered some representatives from different cities of Italy and the world, followed by the youngsters of Sant’Egidio and the poor friends of the Community: refugees – here thanks to the Humanitarian Corridors – elderly, children of the “School of Peace”, people with disabilities engaged in art-studios and the homeless hosted by the Community during the days of extreme weather conditions.
A youngster representing the Youth for Peace addressed these words to Pope Francis:
Meeting with the poor for me was not only a “social” fact, but also a spiritual reality
This summer with my friends of ‘Youth for Peace’ from all over Europe we found ourselves in Barcelona, just in the aftermath of the terrible attack on the Rambla. Among the many flowers, candles, tickets left on the scene of the attack there was one that struck me. A young man had drawn a boy, a small boy, who he represented himself, and a great monster symbolizing fear. The design was entitled: “Here there is me and the fear”. And in the comment he said: “Fear is not so great and I am not so small. I’m not afraid. “This design made us think: fear is not as big as they tell us or as many acts of violence, division, bullying, they would like to demonstrate. Being together in that dramatic moment made me realize that we are not as small as we believe. Being a community, being in the Church is a great gift in time of the virtual and loneliness of so many of my peers.
The more I live in the virtual, the more the others go away and I am afraid of it. Sad is life in which there are no friends. Sad is the life in which I must always defend myself. So sad that it can also lead to violent acts. But in this sadness a light was lit: the meeting with the poor. When I met the poor children of the suburbs of Rome in the School of Peace, when I understood their request for friendship, defenses fell. I understood that the problem is not to defend oneself from others, but to defend the poor.
I felt I had a responsibility towards them. Yes, until then I believed that responsibility was a word not suitable for young people, but for adults, for old people. But the meeting with poor children explained to me that the responsibility is also valid for me. How could I leave only that child? And dreams came with responsibility. I dreamed of giving a future to children, I dreamed of a society in which there is room for everyone. It is the right of each of us to have a dream. It’s not illegitimate how they make us believe, saying “yes, it’s ok, but you’ll never be able to do it”, “we’ll talk about dreams another day”. To dream of a new world for everyone, not just for me, is my right that I want to exercise with my friends.
Globalization has made us all more alone, lost, a bit lost in the big world because the problems seem so great: global pollution, war, poverty. Yet it is a great opportunity because I can meet young people from all over the world, travel, be informed about many things. An opportunity that the generations that have preceded us have not had. We have the possibility to think, to imagine an answer to the problems of the world, because we know them.
Today I can say to you, Holy Father, that the presence of a poor, vulnerable child in my life has changed me more than many speeches: he taught me loyalty, asked me to take responsibility and not remain inert or closed in my world.
I ask myself: would it not be possible in the Church to make contact with the poor more present in the education of young people? Sometimes we have the idea that some poor people have to deal with some specialists. Would it not be more beautiful if in each parish or Catholic school it was proposed to meet and serve the poor to every young person?
The meeting with the poor for me was not only a “social” fact, but also a spiritual reality: I understood better who Jesus was for me, or rather I understood that I met him!