By Vatican News
Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin has conveyed Pope Francis’s warmest greetings to Bishop Francesco Lambasi of Rimini, on the occasion of the opening of the Meeting for Friendship between Peoples.
“The Holy Father wishes to convey through you his wish for the success of the 41st Meeting for Friendship amongst Peoples,” reads the letter dated 5 August. “To the organizers and all those who will participate, Pope Francis assures his closeness and his prayer.”
Every year since 1980, the Meeting for Friendship between Peoples takes place in August, in Rimini, Italy.
This year’s meeting is themed: “Devoid of wonder we remain deaf to the sublime” from A.J. Heschel’s book God in Search of Man. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the meeting is taking place online.
All in the same boat
Echoing Pope Francis’s words during the Extraordinary Moment of Prayer on 27 March 2020, Cardinal Parolin said that we all are in the same boat tossed about in a storm that unmasks our vulnerabilities especially since we are all affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The theme of this year’s meeting, therefore, “offers a precious and original contribution at a dizzying moment in history” when we have lost our ability to look in amazement at reality like children.
Instead, said the Cardinal, “many have focused exclusively on their own strengths, on their ability to produce and earn,” in our search for goods rather than for good.
It is for this reason that Jesus’s invitation to become like children (Mt 18:3) comes to mind as amazement “sets life in motion, allowing it to start again in any circumstance,” said Cardinal Parolin.
The world in the face of Covid
Cardinal Parolin pointed out that in recent months “we have experienced that dimension of amazement that takes the form of compassion in the presence of suffering, fragility and the precariousness of existence.”
This noble human feeling, he explains, has taken many forms including pushing doctors and nurses to face the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic; encouraging teachers to adapt to the difficulties of distance learning to finish the school year, and “allowing many to find in the faces and presence of their families, the strength to face discomfort and difficulties.”
In this sense, the theme of the meeting is a call to “descend into the depths of the human heart by means of amazement.” "Amazement", he added “is the way to grasp the signs of the sublime, that is, of that mystery that constitutes the root and foundation of all things.”
If this type of vision is not cultivated, the Cardinal warned, “one becomes blind to existence, closed within oneself, attracted by what is fleeting, and stops questioning reality.”
Beauty in art
Cardinal Parolin recalled that Pope Francis recently received a letter from several artists who thanked him for praying for them during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on 7 May. On that occasion, the Pope said: “Artists make us understand what beauty is, and without beauty the Gospel cannot be understood.”
In that regard, Cardinal Parolin said the Meeting launches a challenge to Christians to witness the profound attraction that faith exercises by virtue of its beauty. This, according to the Servant of God Luigi Giussani is the “attraction of Jesus.” And, as Pope Francis stresses in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (167), “every expression of true beauty can thus be acknowledged as a path leading to an encounter with the Lord Jesus…so a formation in the via pulchritudinis ought to be part of our effort to pass on the faith.”
Pope Francis, therefore, invites the Meeting's participants to collaborate with him in witnessing to the experience of “the beauty of God who became flesh so that our eyes may marvel at his face and our eyes may find in him, the wonder of living.” This, “is a task from which we cannot refrain,” said the Cardinal, especially in this critical time in history.
Concluding, Cardinal Parolin said the Pope imparts his Apostolic Blessing on the participants of the Meeting, asking them to remember him in their prayers.