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ROME – In a meeting with young people in Bahrain Saturday, Pope Francis said they are tasked with building a future based on fraternity and concern for others, rather than conflict, saying each one of them is essential to making this vision come to fruition.
During his Nov. 5 address, which took place at Sacred Heart School in Awali, the pope told young people that he admired the fact they had gathered despite coming from different religious and cultural backgrounds and were still “not afraid of being together.”
“Without you this coexistence of differences would not be possible. And it would have no future,” he said, adding, “In the dough of the world, you are the good leaven destined to rise, to break down many social and cultural barriers and to foster the growth of fraternity and innovation.”
Amid the often complex and varied situations in which they find themselves, it is essential, Francis said, “to tear down certain barriers in order to bring about a world that is people-oriented and more fraternal, even if this involves facing a number of challenges.”
Pope Francis is currently on a Nov. 3-6 visit to Bahrain, making him the first pope to set foot in the majority Muslim Gulf nation, which is known for its culturally, ethnically, and religiously diverse population.
In his speech, the pope presented the youths with several invitations he said will help build a future of peaceful coexistence and make them “champions of fraternity.”
First, he urged them to embrace a “culture of care,” which he said requires the development of “an inner attitude of empathy, an attentive gaze that takes us out of ourselves” and which overcomes one’s own concerns and “makes us take an interest in other people.”
This, he said, is “the antidote to a world closed in on itself and, rife with individualism, a world that devours its children. A world imprisoned by a kind of sadness that gives rise to indifference and solitude.”
“If we do not learn to take care of our surroundings – other people, our cities, our society, the environment – we will end up spending our lives like those people who are constantly in a hurry, running around, doing many things at once,” but who are ultimately sad, he said, “because they have never really known the joy of friendship and generosity.”
Creating this culture of care begins with caring for oneself, “not so much outside as inside, in the deepest and most precious part of yourselves,” Francis said, telling youth that caring for one’s heart means being silent and listening to it.
He cautioned them against becoming “tourists of life,” who see the world “from the outside, who only see the surface of things.”
Rather, “In silence, following the rhythm of your heart, talk to God. Tell him about yourself and the people you meet each day…Bring him their faces, their joys and sorrows, for there is no prayer without relationships, just as there is no joy without love,” he said.
Love, the pope said, “is not a soap opera or a romantic film,” but rather means “another person to heart, to care for others, to offer one’s time and gifts to those in need, to take risks and make life a gift that generates even greater life.”
Pope Francis also urged young people to spread fraternity in the various settings of their lives and urged them to “strive to be champions of fraternity!”
“This is the challenge of today that will make us winners tomorrow, the challenge faced by our increasingly globalized and multicultural societies,” he said, insisting that new devices or advancements in technology in themselves “are not enough to make our world peaceful and fraternal.”
He pointed to the many conflicts and tensions raging throughout the world, saying these often flare up “because we do not work on the heart; we allow distances between ourselves and others to increase and, as a result, ethnic, cultural, religious and other differences become problems and fears that isolate rather than opportunities to grow together.”
“When those differences seem more powerful than the fraternity that keeps us together, we risk confrontation and conflict,” he said, and encouraged young people to continue sowing “seeds of fraternity.”
By doing so, “you will be builders of the future, because only in fraternity will our world have a future!” he said, and urged them to go beyond words and take concrete action on a daily basis.
“Learn how to travel within yourselves as well, to expand your inner borders, so that prejudices against others can vanish, margins of distrust can narrow, fences of fear can be torn down, and fraternity and friendship can blossom!” he said.
Francis also pressed the youths to accept the challenge of making decisions in their lives.
There is no such thing as a life without challenges, he said, and, using the image of a fork in the road, told young people that when they come to these moments, “you always have to put yourself on the line, take risks and make a decision.”
To know what decision to make requires planning and training, he said, saying that learning to hone one’s instincts “requires learning how to weigh your options and take the right direction.”
He told young people to press forward without fear, but never go it alone,” leaning on God and on the people around them who serve as companions and guides.
Prayer is essential to this process, he said, saying God wants to help each person “distinguish what is essential from what is superfluous, what is good from what is harmful to you and to others, what is just from what leads to injustice and disorder.”
Pope Francis closed his speech assuring youth that “the Church is with you and needs each one of you very much, so that we can be renewed, explore new paths, experiment with new languages, and become more joyful and hospitable.”
“Never lose the courage to dream big and to live life to the full! Adopt the culture of care and spread it. Become champions of fraternity. Face life’s challenges by letting yourselves be guided by God’s faithful creativity and by good counsellors,” he said, and asked for prayers, assuring them of his own.
Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen