Turin, Italy (Monday, 06-22-2015, Gaudium Press) Pope Francis is urging young people to live a chaste love, since true love respects the other and refuses to use him or her.
The youth of Turin welcomed Pope Francis this evening as he concluded day one of his two-day trip by speaking off-the-cuff for about 30 minutes to the young people gathered in Plaza Vittorio.
Three of the young people were given the opportunity to ask the Pope a question. What is the greatness of the love of Jesus and how can we experience his love, asked 19-year-old Chiara. Sara, age 27, asked what can be done to avoid discouragement and keep on hoping? And Luigi, a 26-year-old university student, asked for advice on friendship and Jesus’ “greater love” for others.
In answering the questions, the Pope said that it makes him sad to see “youth who ‘retire’ at age 20, who age early.” The desire to love is what keeps a young person young, he said. But love, he explained, isn’t what is seen in the soap operas.
“Love is more in actions than in words,” he said. “Love is concrete.” In this regard, he noted how God began to speak of love when he chose the people with whom he made a covenant, when he committed himself to this people.
Secondly, love is in communication, the Holy Father continued. “Love listens and responds. Love is made in dialogue, in communion. It is communicated. Love is neither deaf nor dumb. It communicates.”
Love is not “a romantic sentiment of the moment.”
The Holy Father also spoke about chastity, admitting that it can be an “unpopular” word that young people don’t like. But love is chaste, he affirmed. Love is respectful of people and doesn’t use people. “And you, young people, in this hedonistic world, in this world where the only thing that gets attention is pleasure, having a good time, living the good life, I tell you, be chaste. Be chaste.” The youth responded to his exhortation with applause.
He continued, saying that “all of us have gone through times in life when this virtue is difficult. But it is the proof of a genuine love, a love that knows how to give life, that doesn’t seek the other for one’s own pleasure.”
A chaste love is one that sees the other’s life as something sacred, affirming, I respect you and I don’t want to use you.
The Pope acknowledged that it isn’t easy: “We all are aware of the difficulties in overcoming this diminishing, hedonistic concept of love,” he said, asking them to make the effort to live love chastely.
The Bishop of Rome went on to speak of another dimension of love: “sacrifice.”
“Look at the love parents have, of so many mothers and fathers who arrive to work in the morning exhausted because they haven’t slept well from having cared for a sick child. This is love. And this is respect.”
Love is service, and serving the others, he reminded.
God of money
To respond to the second question, Pope Francis reflected on the deception and discouragement that sometimes we suffer in life. He mentioned as he has on other occasions a “third world war going on in the world in pieces.” And he strongly criticized the hypocrisy that brings some to call themselves Christians but then engage in arms trade.
In this context, he spoke about some of the tragedies of the last century, in which millions were killed because they were considered to be “second class,” such as the Armenian massacre, the Shoah, or under Stalin in Russia. Meanwhile, world powers “looked the other way,” watching out for their own interests.
The Pope also reiterated his criticism of the “throwaway culture,” in which children, the elderly, youth are disregarded “because in the world economic system, man and woman is not at the center, but rather the god of money.”
To conclude his discourse, Francis turned to the third question, speaking about unity and building up. He assured the young people that if they put themselves to work in the things that build up, the sentiment of discouragement evaporates.
The Pontiff exhorted them not to “retire early,” to swim against the current, to build. He warned against values that are mere “bubbles,” that won’t carry them forward. The best antidote against the culture that only promises pleasure is “doing constructive things, even if they are small, but that unite.”
He advised the youth to be savvy, and not fall for those who offer diamonds but are in reality peddling glass.
The Pope also recalled that at the end of the 19th century in the region of Turin, the situation was very difficult, but that many saints came from that era, “because they realized that they had to go against the current.” Francis encouraged the youth to remember them and what they accomplished.