ROME — Pope Francis on Tuesday surprised the annual TED conference in Vancouver with a pre-recorded TED Talk in which the pontiff called for a “revolution of tenderness,” warning political leaders they will only “end up hurting yourself and those around you if you don’t connect your power with humility and tenderness.”
“Tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women,” Francis said, speaking in Italian with English subtitles, “tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility.”
The video was recorded in the Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse in which the Pope has lived since being elected in 2013.
The theme for the TED conference was “The Future You,” and Francis said he liked it “because,while looking at tomorrow, it invites us to open a dialogue today, to look at the future through a ‘you.’”
“Quite a few years of life have strengthened my conviction that each and everyone’s existence is deeply tied to that of others. Life is not time merely passing by, life is about interactions,” the pontiff said.
Francis said for Christians, hope is the door which opens onto the future – but explained hope does not mean “to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing.”
“As I meet, or lend an ear, to those who are sick, to the migrants who face terrible hardships in search of a brighter future, to prison inmates who carry a hell of pain inside their hearts, and to those, many of them young, who cannot find a job, I often find myself wondering: Why them and not me?”
Francis said this was especially true when looking at the migrant crisis, since his father and grandparents were immigrants to Argentina, and “I could have very well ended up among today’s ‘discarded’ people.”
And this is when he called for a “revolution of tenderness.”
Francis said Jesus himself took the path of tenderness, lowering himself and practicing the “real, concrete language of love” during his entire human existence.
“Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly,” Francis said.
He then quoted an Argentinean proverb: Power is liking drinking gin on an empty stomach.
“You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don’t connect your power with humility and tenderness,” Francis said.
“Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to listen to the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future,” – he said – “to listen also to the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth. Tenderness means to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need.”
Since 2006, TED (which stands for Technology, Education, and Design) has been offering free educational videos online covering thousands of topics.
Francis said that he was aware the organization brings together creative people, but he challenged them to do more.
“Yes, love does require a creative, concrete and ingenious attitude,” the pope said, “good intentions and conventional formulas, so often used to appease our conscience, are not enough. Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the other is not a statistic or a number. The other has a face. The ‘you’ is always a real presence, a person to take care of.”
It took over a year to organize the pope’s appearance at the TED gathering, and the 80 people who eventually knew it were sworn to secrecy.
“When I first approached the Vatican, it’s fair to say that not many there knew of TED. So there was a lot of explaining to do,” said Bruno Giussani, TED’s International Curator, on the TED website.
The Italian said Francis “has become possibly the only moral voice capable of reaching people across boundaries and providing clarity and a compelling message of hope.”
This is not the first time TED has approached the Vatican to work with the venture. In April 2013, just a month after Francis was elected pope, the Pontifical Council for Culture co-sponsored a TED Conference at the Vatican on religious freedom.