By Christopher Wells
Pope Francis met with the Youth of Catholic Action (Azione Cattolica Ragazzi, ACR) on Saturday at the Vatican. In what has become a Christmas tradition, the Holy Father received a delegation that included boys and girls, accompanied by their teachers, from 12 different Italian dioceses.
The national President of Italian Catholic Action, Matteo Trufelli, with other clerical and lay leaders of the movement, also took part in the event.
In his address to the children, Pope Francis said the annual meeting with the young people of Catholic Action is “particularly joyful,” especially because it serves as an occasion for them to “update” the Holy Father on their activities “of solidarity in favour of the poor and of the most disadvantaged.”
A heritage of wisdom and faith
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the foundation of Catholic Action, and Pope Francis expressed his deep appreciation for the series of encounters that have been organized for the youth of Catholic Action to meet with the “grandparents” of the movement. “This is something very beautiful and important,” he said, “because the elderly are the historic memory of every community, a heritage of wisdom and faith to be heard, preserved, and valued.”
"These are your peripheries!"
The Holy Father encouraged the young people to “fix [your] attention on the decisive events of the life of Jesus, to seek to become ever more like Him, your greatest and most faithful friend.” Drawing on their slogan “ready to shoot” – a metaphor taken from photography – Pope Francis invited them to “be good photographers, both of the things that Jesus has done, and of the reality” of the world around them. In particular, he called on them to be attentive to those who are forgotten, to “the poorest, the weakest, those relegated to the margins society because they are considered as a problem.” He told the children, “These are your peripheries”, and he encouraged them to seek out those who “no one ever sees,” and to “dare to take the first step to meet them, to give them a little bit of your time, a smile, an act of tenderness.”