Pope to young people in Tokyo -
‘Japan needs you, the world needs you!'
25 November 2019, 05:01
English for Africa programme (26/11/2019 01:30)
Pope to young people in Tokyo: ‘Japan needs you, the world needs you!'
One rendezvous Pope Francis never misses during an Apostolic Visit abroad is meeting with young people, “the builders of tomorrow’s society”. That meeting took place on the penultimate day of his visit to Japan, when he took time to meet with the youth in Tokyo.
By Linda Bordoni
According to a well-rehearsed formula, the meeting between Pope Francis and young people in Tokyo’s St Mary Cathedral began with some first-hand testimonies. Representing the cultural and religious diversity of young people living in Japan today, a young Catholic, a young Buddhist, and a young migrant were able to voice their deepest fears and aspirations and ask the Pope some important questions.
Miki highlighted a reality in which lack of time and fraught competitiveness often cause young people to “fail to see the uncountable stars and lose the joy-filled chance to experience the greatness of God and their own weakness and realize that God is with them”.
Masako shone the spotlight on the scourge of bullying and suicide, particularly amongst scholars and students in Japan, and on the fact that a wrong use of technology leads many young people to experience loneliness, isolation, and a lack of true friends.
Her concerns were echoed by Leonardo, the son of Filipino immigrants, who said to the Pope: “Please tell me, Holy Father, how should we confront the problems of discrimination and bullying that are spreading throughout the world?
"Thank you, Leonardo", Pope Francis said, “For sharing the experience of bullying and discrimination,” and he noted that more and more young people are finding the courage to speak up about such experiences.
Bullying, he said, “attacks our self-confidence at the very time when we most need the ability to accept ourselves and to confront new challenges in life”.
The Pope described the phenomenon as an epidemic and said the best way to treat it is to unite and learn to say “Enough!”. And he urged all young people never to be afraid of “standing up in the midst of classmates and friends and saying: “What you are doing is wrong”.
Fear, the Pope explained, is always the enemy of goodness, because it is the enemy of love and peace.
He said that all great religions teach tolerance, harmony and mercy, not fear, division and conflict. He reminded those present that Jesus constantly told his followers not to be afraid. Love for God and for our brothers and sisters, the Pope said, casts away fear. “Jesus himself,” he said, “knew what it was to be despised and rejected – even to the point of being crucified”.
“He knew too what it was to be a stranger, a migrant, someone who was “different”. In a sense, Jesus was the ultimate “outsider”, an outsider who was full of life to give,” he said.
“The world needs you, never forget that!” Pope Francis said to all the ‘Leonardo’s of the world’: we can always look at all the things we don’t have, but we must see all the life that we can give and share with others: “The Lord needs you, so that you can encourage all those people around us who are looking for a helping hand to lift them up.”
This, he said, involves “developing a very important but underestimated quality: the ability to learn to make time for others, to listen to them, to share with them, to understand them”.
Love changes the world
Only then, the Pope explained, can we open our experiences and our problems to a love that can change us and start to change the world around us.
That, the Pope continued is exactly what Miki talked about during his presentation when he asked how young people can make space for God in a society that is frenetic and focused on being competitive and productive.
Increasingly, he said, we see that “a person, a community or even a whole society can be highly developed on the outside, but have an interior life that is impoverished and under-developed, lacking real life and vitality”.
“Everything bores them; they no longer dream, laugh or play. They have no sense of wonder or surprise. They are like zombies; their hearts have stopped beating because of their inability to celebrate life with others,” he said.
Remarking on how many people throughout our world are materially rich, but live as slaves to unparalleled loneliness, the Pope quoted Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta who worked among the poorest of the poor and said: “Loneliness and the feeling of being unloved is the most terrible form of poverty”.
We are all called to combat spiritual poverty, Pope Francis said, but young people have a special role to play “because it demands a major change in priorities and options”.
“It means recognizing that the most important thing is not what I have or can acquire, but with whom I can share it. It is not so important to focus on what I live for, but whom I live for. Things are important, but people are essential,” he said.
Without people, the Pope continued, we grow dehumanized, we lose our faces and names, and we become just another object.
Friendship, the Pope said is something beautiful that you can offer to our world, and he invited young people to place their hope in a future “based on the culture of encounter, acceptance, fraternity and respect for the dignity of each person, especially those most in need of love and understanding.”
“In order to stay alive physically, we have to keep breathing; it is something we do without realizing it, automatically. To stay alive in the fullest sense of the word, we also need to learn how to breathe spiritually, through prayer and meditation,” he said.
He urged those present to do that and learn to hear God speak to them in the depths of their hearts, and at the same time reach out to others in acts of love and service.
Never set aside your dreams
Finally Pope Francis referred to Masako’s experience as a student and a teacher noting that the key to growing in wisdom is not so much finding the right answers but discovering the right questions to ask.
“Keep asking, and help others to ask, the right questions about the meaning of our life and about how we can shape a better future for those who are coming after us,” he said.
Dear young people, the Pope concluded, “Never lose heart or set aside your dreams. Give them plenty of room, dare to glimpse vast horizons and see what awaits you if you aspire to achieve them together”.
Watch the video of the full event (with English commentary):
25 November 2019, 05:01
Pope writes Apostolic Letter on the significance of the Christmas crèche
Pope Francis has written an Apostolic Letter on the meaning and importance of the nativity scene. He signed the Letter during his visit on Sunday afternoon to the Italian town of Greccio.
By Vatican News
Greccio is the mountain village where Saint Francis of Assisi created the first crib scene in 1223 to commemorate the birth of Jesus. Pope Francis returned to the town on Sunday to deliver his Apostolic Letter entitled, “Admirabile signum”.
An enchanting image
The Latin title of the Letter refers to the “enchanting image” of the Christmas crèche, one that “never ceases to arouse amazement and wonder”, writes the Pope. “The depiction of Jesus’ birth is itself a simple and joyful proclamation of the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God”, he says.
A living Gospel
“The nativity scene is like a living Gospel rising up from the pages of sacred Scripture”, continues Pope Francis. Contemplating the Christmas story is like setting out on a spiritual journey, “drawn by the humility of the God who became man in order to encounter every man and woman.” So great is His love for us, writes the Pope, “that He became one of us, so that we in turn might become one with Him.”
A family tradition
The Pope hopes this Letter will encourage the family tradition of preparing the nativity scene, “but also the custom of setting it up in the workplace, in schools, hospitals, prisons and town squares.” Praising the imagination and creativity that goes into these small masterpieces, Pope Francis says he hopes this custom will never be lost “and that, wherever it has fallen into disuse, it can be rediscovered and revived.”
The Gospel origin of the crèche
Pope Francis recalls the origin of the Christmas crèche as related in the Gospels. “Coming into this world, the Son of God was laid in the place where animals feed. Hay became the first bed of the One who would reveal Himself as ‘the bread come down from heaven’.” The nativity scene “evokes a number of the mysteries of Jesus’ life and brings them close to our own daily lives”, writes the Pope.
Saint Francis’ crèche in Greccio
Pope Francis takes us back to the Italian town of Greccio, which Saint Francis visited in the year 1223. The caves he saw there reminded him of the countryside of Bethlehem. On 25 December, friars and local people came together, bringing flowers and torches, writes the Pope. “When Francis arrived, he found a manger full of hay, an ox and a donkey.” A priest celebrated the Eucharist over the manger, “showing the bond between the Incarnation of the Son of God and the Eucharist.”
The start of the tradition
This is how our tradition began, continues Pope Francis, “with everyone gathered in joy around the cave, with no distance between the original event and those sharing in its mystery.” With the simplicity of that sign, Saint Francis carried out a great work of evangelization, he writes. His teaching continues today “to offer a simple yet authentic means of portraying the beauty of our faith.”
A sign of God’ tender love
Pope Francis explains that the Christmas crèche moves us so deeply because it shows God’s tender love. From the time of its Franciscan origins, “the nativity scene has invited us to ‘feel’ and ‘touch’ the poverty that God’s Son took upon Himself in the Incarnation”, writes the Pope. “It asks us to meet Him and serve Him by showing mercy to those of our brothers and sisters in greatest need.”
The meaning of the crèche elements
Pope Francis reflects on the meaning behind the elements that make up the nativity scene. He begins with the background of “a starry sky wrapped in the darkness and silence of night.” We think of when we have experienced the darkness of night, he says, yet even then, God does not abandon us. “His closeness brings light where there is darkness and shows the way to those dwelling in the shadow of suffering.”
The Pope then writes about the landscapes that often include ancient ruins or buildings. He explains how these ruins are “the visible sign of fallen humanity, of everything that inevitably falls into ruin, decays and disappoints.” This scenic setting tells us that Jesus has come “to heal and rebuild, to restore the world and our lives to their original splendour.”
Turning to the shepherds, Pope Francis writes that, “unlike so many other people, busy about many things, the shepherds become the first to see the most essential thing of all: the gift of salvation. It is the humble and the poor who greet the event of the Incarnation.” The shepherds respond to God “who comes to meet us in the Infant Jesus by setting out to meet Him with love, gratitude and awe”, he adds.
The poor and the lowly
The presence of the poor and the lowly, continues the Pope, is a reminder that “God became man for the sake of those who feel most in need of His love and who ask Him to draw near to them.” From the manger, “Jesus proclaims, in a meek yet powerful way, the need for sharing with the poor as the path to a more human and fraternal world in which no one is excluded or marginalized.”
Then there are the figures that have no apparent connection with the Gospel accounts. Yet, writes Pope Francis, “from the shepherd to the blacksmith, from the baker to the musicians, from the women carrying jugs of water to the children at play: all this speaks of everyday holiness, the joy of doing ordinary things in an extraordinary way.”
Mary and Joseph
The Pope then focuses on the figures of Mary and Joseph.
“Mary is a mother who contemplates her child and shows Him to every visitor”, he writes. “In her, we see the Mother of God who does not keep her Son only to herself, but invites everyone to obey His word and to put it into practice. Saint Joseph stands by her side, “protecting the Child and His Mother.” Joseph is the guardian, the just man, who “entrusted himself always to God’s will.”
The Infant Jesus
But it is when we place the statue of the Infant Jesus in the manger, that the nativity scene comes alive, says Pope Francis. “It seems impossible, yet it is true: in Jesus, God was a child, and in this way He wished to reveal the greatness of His love: by smiling and opening His arms to all.” The crèche allows us to see and touch this unique and unparalleled event that changed the course of history, “but it also makes us reflect on how our life is part of God’s own life.”
The Three Kings
As the Feast of Epiphany approaches, we add the Three Kings to the Christmas crèche. Their presence reminds us of every Christian’s responsibility to spread the Gospel, writes Pope Francis. “The Magi teach us that people can come to Christ by a very long route”, but returning home, they tell others of this amazing encounter with the Messiah, “thus initiating the spread of the Gospel among the nations.”
Transmitting the faith
The memories of standing before the Christmas crèche when we were children should remind us “of our duty to share this same experience with our children and our grandchildren”, says Pope Francis. It does not matter how the nativity scene is arranged, “what matters is that it speaks to our lives.”
The Christmas crèche is part of the precious yet demanding process of passing on the faith, concludes Pope Francis. “Beginning in childhood, and at every stage of our lives, it teaches us to contemplate Jesus, to experience God’s love for us, to feel and believe that God is with us and that we are with Him.”
01 December 2019, 16:01