Message for the XXXVI Meeting for Friendship Amongst Peoples (Rimini, August 20 - 26, 2015) - Francis

Message for the XXXVI Meeting for Friendship Amongst Peoples (Rimini, August 20 - 26, 2015)

Pope Francis

8/17/2015 - Vatican City

On the occasion of the 36th annual Meeting for Friendship Amongst Peoples, which took place August 20-26 with the theme, “What is this lack a lack of, oh heart, of which all of a sudden you are full?” (taken from a verse of poetry by Mario Luzi), the Holy Father Pope Francis sent the following message to Bishop Francesco Lambiasi of Rimini, through the Secretary of the Vatican State Cardinal Pietro Parolin:

Message from the Cardinal Secretary of State
Vatican City, August 17, 2015

To the Most Reverend
Bishop of Rimini

On behalf of the Holy Father Pope Francis and on my own behalf, I wish to express my warmest greetings to you, the organizers, and the participants to the 36th

The evocative and poetic phrase selected as the main theme for this year’s Meeting–“What is this lack a lack of, oh heart, of which all of a sudden you are full?” (Mario Luzi)–particularly emphasizes the heart inside each of us, which Saint Augustine described as “restless heart”, one that is never satisfied and is always looking for something that will fulfill its expectations. This quest is expressed through questions about the meaning of life and death, of love, work, justice, and happiness.

However, to be worthy of finding an answer, it is necessary to take one’s humanity seriously, always cultivating this healthy restlessness. In this effort–as Pope Francis says–“we may need but think of some ordinary human experience such as a joyful reunion, a moment of disappointment, the fear of being alone, compassion at the sufferings of others, uncertainty about the future, concern for a loved one” (Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium 155).

This leads us to one of today’s big questions: in the face of so many partial answers, which only offer “false infinites” (Benedict XVI) and produce a strange anesthesia, how can the questions we all carry inside be voiced? In the face of our numbness in life, how can one’s conscience be awakened again? For the Church, this opens up a fascinating journey, as was the case at the beginning of Christianity, when people kept themselves busy in a life without the courage, strength, or seriousness to ask decisive questions. And, as St. Paul experienced at the Areopagus, speaking of God to those who have reduced, censored or forgotten the question “why?” is perceived as something distant, disconnected from real life with its tragedies and trials.

Therefore, none of us can succeed in opening a dialogue about God without being able to fuel the smoking lamp that burns in the heart, without accusing anyone’s limitations–which are also ours–and without pretention, but rather welcoming and listening to anyone. The duty of Christians, as Pope Francis loves to remark, is to begin processes rather than to occupy spaces (ibid., 222). And
the first step lies in reawakening that sense lack that our heart is full of and that very often lies under the burden of frustrated efforts and hopes. Yet “our heart” is still there, and is always searching for something.

Today’s drama lies in the imminent risk of negating the identity and dignity of the person. A worrisome ideological “colonization” is diminishing the perception of the authentic needs of the heart while offering limited responses, which do not measure up to the scope of the search for love, truth, beauty, and justice that is in each individual. We are all children of our time, and are therefore influenced by a way of thinking that offers new values and opportunities, but can also condition, limit, and damage our heart with alienating proposals that dull the thirst for God.

Still, our heart is never content, as Pope Benedict XVI said when talking to youth in San Marino, “[it] is a window open on the infinite” (19 June 2011). Why do we have to suffer and eventually to die? Why do evil and contradiction exist? Is life worth it? Is it still possible to have hope in the face of a “third, piecemeal world war” and with so many brothers and sisters being persecuted and killed due to their creed? Is loving, working, making an effort, and committing oneself still meaningful? What is the destiny of our life and of the people we never want to lose? What are we doing in this world?… These questions are in the minds of everyone, children and adults, believers and non-believers alike. Sooner or later, at least once in our life, due to a challenge or a sorrowful event, while thinking about our children’s future or about the usefulness of our job, each of us has to come to terms with one or more of these questions. Even the most stubborn deniers cannot completely eradicate them from their lives.

Life is not an absurd desire; the lack is not evidence that we were born “flawed”, it is rather a sign that our nature is made for great things. As Servant of God Monsignor Giussani wrote, “human needs constitute a reference, an implicit affirmation of an ultimate answer which lies beyond the experiential aspects of existence. If the hypothesis of a ‘beyond’ were to be eliminated, those needs would be unnaturally suffocated” (The Religious Sense, Montreal 1997, 115). The myth of Ulysses tells us about the nostos algos, i.e. the nostalgia that can only be fulfilled by an infinite reality.

For this reason, God, the infinite Mystery, bowed to our nothingness and our thirst for him; He offered the answer awaited by all even without being aware of it, as they sought it in their own success, money, power, in all kinds of drugs, in asserting their own momentary desires. Only the initiative of God the Creator could fulfill the breadth of the heart, and He came to us to allow us to find him just as we would find a friend. Thus we can rest even in stormy waters, because we can be sure of his presence. Pope Francis said: “Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else–God is in this person’s life. […] Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God” (America, The National Catholic Review, 30 September 2013).

With this year’s theme, the Meeting can contribute to an essential task of the Church, i.e. to “stimulate a desire for this growth, so that each of us can say wholeheartedly: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Gal 2:20)’ (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 160) in that Jesus’ message “is the message capable of responding to the desire for the infinite which abides in every human heart” (ibid. 165). Jesus “came to show the love which God has for us. […] It is a love which is powerful and real. […]It is a love which heals, forgives, raises up and shows concern. […]It is a love which draws near and restores dignity. We can lose this dignity in so many ways. But Jesus is stubborn: he gave his very life in order to restore the identity we had lost” (Pope Francis, Address in the Rehabilitation Centre of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, 10 July 2015). This is the contribution that the Christian faith offers to everyone, of which the Meeting can be a witness, especially through the lives of those who make it happen.

And so the Holy Father commends all the organizers and volunteers of the Meeting to welcome everyone, supported by the desire to spread the good news of God’s love with strength, beauty and simplicity. Once again today, the Lord bows to our lack in order to fill it with the water of life gushing from the risen Christ. His Holiness asks each of you to pray for his ministry and wholeheartedly bestows his Apostolic Blessing upon your Excellency and all the Meeting participants.

In adding my own best wishes for the Meeting, I take the opportunity to send you my fondest regards.

Pietro Cardinal Parolin
Secretary of State

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