By Francesca Merlo
Pope Francis on Thursday met young adults, faculty and guests to announce the launch of new Scholas Occurrentes chapters in Washington, USA; Valencia, Spain; Chaco, Argentina; and Sydney, Australia.
The Pope was greeted at the Scholas Occurrentes headquartes in Rome by songs and applause. Some of the young people participating in the educational project presented the Pope with gifts, including a t-shirt. Two young Italians, in particular, asked the Pope to choose between two gifts: a tree of life and a wooden lyre. The Pope chose the latter.
According to its website, Scholas Occurrentes is an International Organisation of Pontifical Right, begun by Pope Francis, which seeks “to answer the call to create a culture of encounter and bring young people together in an education that generates meaning." It is present through its network in 190 countries and reaches more than 1 million children.
The Pope greeted a line of young people who, according to the President of Scholas, "worked hard during the pandemic."
"What does it mean to work hard?" the Holy Father asked. "We couldn't go out physically but we went out with our minds," said one boy. And the Pope responded, "That's the key! To go out... because if you remain in yourself you become corrupted. Like water that when it runs is pure, and when it stops becomes stagnant."
The Pope was then greeted by Argentine first lady, Fabiola Yáñez, who is engaged in the work of Scholas, and by Italian ministers Roberto Speranza (Health) and Patrizio Bianchi (Education).
Politics is defeated where there is war
Responding to the question "how can young people change politics?", asked by a young boy, Pope Francis said that there is one test to see if politics fulfills its mission as "the highest and greatest form of charity" and to verify "the honorability of a nation", and that is war.
"When they talk to me about how politics is in the world, I say: look where there are wars; there is the defeat of politics. A form of politics that is not able to dialogue to avoid a war is defeated; it's over."
The honorability of a nation
"The test on politics is war; the test on the honorability of a nation for me is: 'Do you make weapons? Do you promote wars? Do you earn your wealth because you sell weapons so others can kill themselves?' It is there that we can see if a nation is morally sound," said the Pope. "Even to me," he added, "I say sincerely, it hurts my heart when I see priests blessing weapons. Instruments of death are not blessed."
"Love is political, that is, social for everyone. And when this universality of love is missing, politics fails, and becomes sick or bad."
Finally, the Pope called for dialogue because "different opinions" are "the key in politics", which must always aspire to "unity and harmony."
Digging a well: a symbol of rebirth
All those present at the meeting then symbolically dug a well in a vase of earth, placed in the classroom.
This act was meant as a symbol of rebirth, of restarting and also of "risk". This is so, said Pope Francis before imparting his blessing, even taking risks is important: "Scholas cannot be understood without this attitude of risk."