Address of His Holiness Pope Francis
Ecumenical and Interreligious Meeting with Young People
Skopje, Pastoral Centre
Tuesday, 7 May 2019
Having these meetings always gives me joy and hope. Thank you for making this possible and offering me this opportunity. I am very grateful for your dance and for your questions. I received them and thought about them, and so I have prepared some points for our meeting.
I will begin with the last question: after all, as the Lord said, the last shall be first! Liridona, after you shared your hopes with us, you asked me: “Am I dreaming too much?” A very fine question, and I would like all of us to answer it together. What do you think? Is Liridona dreaming too much?
Let me tell you that one can never dream too much. One of the big problems people have today, including so many young people, is that they have lost their ability to dream. They don’t dream, either much or little. When someone does not dream, when a young person does not dream, that empty space gets filled with complaints and a sense of hopelessness. “We can leave that to those who worship the ‘goddess of lament’… She is a false goddess: she makes you take the wrong road. When everything seems to be standing still and stagnant, when our personal issues trouble us, and social problems do not meet with the right responses, it does no good to give up” (Christus Vivit, 141). This is why, dear Liridona, dear friends, a person can never, never dream too much. Try to think of your greatest dreams, like Liridona’s dream – do you remember it? To give hope to a weary world, together with others, both Christians and Muslims. This is certainly a very fine dream. She didn’t think about little things, “on the ground level”, but she dreamed in a big way.
A few months ago, a friend of mine, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, and I had a dream much like yours, that made us want to make a commitment and sign a document that says that faith must lead us believers to see other persons as our brothers and sisters. As brothers and sisters that we need to support and love, without letting ourselves be manipulated by petty interests. We can have dreams at every age… So keep dreaming, and dream big!
This makes me think of what Bozanka told us. She said that, as young people, you like adventures. I am glad about that, for it is a beautiful way to be young: to experience an adventure, a good adventure. So I would ask you: what adventure requires more courage than the dream that Liridona shared with us, the dream of giving hope to a weary world? Our world is weary and divided, and we can be tempted to keep it divided, and to become divided ourselves. Yet how forcefully do we hear our Lord’s words: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Mt 5:9)! What can give us more excitement than being committed daily to becoming faithful builders of dreams, artisans of hope? Dreaming helps us to keep alive our certainty that another world is indeed possible, and that we are called to get involved, to help build that world through our work, our efforts and our actions.
In this country, you have a fine tradition of stonecarving, practised by artisans skilled at cutting stone and working it. We need to become like those craftsmen, to become expert carvers of our own dreams. A stonecarver takes a stone in his hands and slowly begins to shape and transform it with concentration and effort, and especially with a great desire to see how that stone, which no one thought was worth anything, can become a work of art.
“Our best dreams are only attained through hope, patience and commitment, and not in haste. At the same time, we should not be hesitant, afraid to take chances or make mistakes. Avoid the paralysis of the living dead, who have no life because they are afraid to take risks, to make mistakes or to persevere in their commitments. Even if you make mistakes, you can always get up and start over, for no one has the right to rob you of hope” (Christus Vivit, 142). Don’t be afraid to become artisans of dreams and of hope!
“Certainly, as members of the Church, we should not stand apart from others. All should regard us as friends and neighbours, like the apostles, who ‘enjoyed the good will of all the people’ (Acts 2:47; cf. 4:21.33; 5:13). Yet at the same time we must dare to be different, to point to ideals other than those of this world, testifying to the beauty of generosity, service, purity, perseverance, forgiveness, fidelity to our personal vocation, prayer, the pursuit of justice and the common good, love for the poor, and social friendship” (ibid., 36)”.
Think of Mother Teresa: when she lived here, she could not have imagined where her life would have ended up. Yet she kept dreaming and tried to see the face of Jesus, her great love, in all those people on the sides of the road. She dreamed in a big way, and this is why she also loved in a big way. She had her feet firmly planted here, in her native land, but she didn’t stand still. She wanted to be “a pencil in the hands of God”. This was the dream she crafted. She offered it to God, she believed in it, she suffered for it, and she never gave it up. And God began to write new and amazing pages of history with that pencil.
Each of you is called, like Mother Teresa, to work with your hands, to take life seriously and make something beautiful of it. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of our dreams (cf. Christus Vivit, 17); let us not deprive ourselves of the newness that the Lord wants to give us. You will encounter many, many unexpected twists and turns in life, but it is important to face them and find creative ways of turning them into opportunities. But never alone! No one can fight alone. As Dragan and Marija told us: “our communion gives us strength to face the challenges of today’s society”.
Here is a splendid secret that shows us how to dream and to turn our life into a wonderful adventure. No one can face life in isolation; no one can live the life of faith or realize his or her dreams alone, without leaving home, without being part of a community, alone at heart or at home, enclosed and isolated behind four walls. We need a community that supports and helps us, in which we can help one another to keep looking ahead.
How important it is to dream together! Just as you are doing today: everyone together, here in one place, without barriers. Please, dream together, not by yourselves! Dream with others and never against others! By yourselves, you risk seeing mirages, seeing things that are not there. Dreams are built together.
Dragan and Marija have told us how difficult this can be, when everything conspires to isolate us and deprive us of the opportunity to encounter one another. Now at my age (and I am not young!), do you want to know what I think was the best lesson I ever learned? It was how to talk to people “face-to-face”. We have entered into the digital age, but actually we know very little about communication. We are all “connected”, but not really “involved” with one another. Getting involved requires life; it calls for being there and sharing the good times but also the not so good times. At last year’s Synod on young people, we were able to have the experience of meeting one another face to face, both the young and the not-so-young. We were able to listen to one another, to dream together and to look to the future with hope and gratitude. That was the best antidote to discouragement and manipulation, to the culture of the ephemeral and to all those false prophets who proclaim only misfortune and destruction. Listening, listening to one another. Let me tell you something I feel very strongly about: give yourselves a chance to share and enjoy a good “face-to-face” with everyone, but especially with your grandparents, with the elderly of your community. Perhaps some of you have heard me say this, but for me that is an antidote to those who would lock you up in the present, overwhelming you with pressures and demands, all in the name of an alleged happiness, as if the world is about to end and you have to experience everything right away. In the long run, this creates anxiety, dissatisfaction and a sense of hopelessness. For a heart tempted by hopelessness, there is no better remedy than listening to the experiences of older people.
Dear friends, spend time with the elderly, listen to their stories, which may sometimes seem a bit unreal but in fact are full of rich experiences, eloquent symbols and a hidden wisdom waiting to be discovered and appreciated. Those stories take time to tell (cf. Christus Vivit, 195). Don’t forget the old saying that a little person can see further by standing on the shoulders of a giant. In this way, you will gain a new and broader vision. Enter into the wisdom of your people, your community, without shame or hesitations, and you will discover an unexpected source of creativity which will prove most fulfilling. It will let you perceive paths where others see barriers, possibilities where others see threats, resurrection where so many proclaim only death.
Before concluding, let us pray together this prayer written by Mother Teresa, so that this certitude can be impressed on our hearts and be a constant source of life.
DO YOU NEED MY HANDS, LORD? (Prayer of Mother Teresa)
Do your need my hands, Lord,
to help the sick and the poor
who are in need today?
Lord, this day I offer you my hands.
Do you need my feet. Lord,
to lead me today
to those who need a friend?
Lord, this day I offer you my feet.
Do you need my voice, Lord,
so that I can speak to all those
who need a word of love?
Lord, this day I offer you my voice.
Do you need my heart, Lord,
so that I can love everyone,
Lord, this day I offer you my heart.