“Judgement and prejudice only increase distances. Hostility and sharp words are not helpful. Marginalizing others accomplishes nothing. Segregating ourselves and other people eventually leads to anger. The path to peaceful coexistence is integration,” said Francis. What is more, “Bombarded by virtual messages, we risk losing our real roots,” he added. “To grow disconnected from life, or to fantasize in a void, is not a good thing; it is a temptation from the evil one. God wants us to be firmly grounded, connected to life.”
Košice (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis travelled to Košice, Slovakia’s second city, this afternoon, on the third day of his apostolic journey to the Central European country. During his stay, he took part in two very different events, meeting with the local Roma community as well as young people.
In his speeches, the pontiff spoke about letting people out of their ghettos, whether physical, like Lunik IX, where Košice’s Roma live, or psychological, like the illusions in which so many young people are lost.
Luník IX is one of Košice’s 22 boroughs. Built in the 1970s, the area’s seven housing units are without gas and running water, which is available only for a few hours a day, and no a real heating system. It is home to 4,300 Roma, perhaps more, the highest concentration in the country.
For the Pope’s visit, tight security measures were put in place, including agents on horseback and barriers to maintain a certain distance. People were asked to stand at the windows, and many did (pictured). People wore traditional multicoloured garments and children came out in great numbers. A large banner said “Benvenuto”, welcome in Italian.
“In the Church,” Francis said (pictured), “no one ought ever to feel out of place or set aside. This is not just a truism; it is the reality of the Church”. Indeed, the “Church is [. . .] a family of brothers and sisters with one Father, who gave us Jesus as our brother, to help us understand how much he loves fraternity.
“Judgement and prejudice only increase distances. Hostility and sharp words are not helpful. Marginalizing others accomplishes nothing. Segregating ourselves and other people eventually leads to anger. The path to peaceful coexistence is integration: an organic, gradual and vital process that starts with coming to know one another, then patiently grows, keeping its gaze fixed on the future.
“And what is the future? We can ask: What is the future? It is our children. The future belongs to them; they are the ones to guide us: their great dreams must not collide with barriers that we have erected. Our children want to grow together with others, without encountering obstacles and exclusion. They deserve a well-integrated and free life.”
“Courageous decisions must be made on behalf of our children: to promote their dignity, to educate them in such a way that they can grow up solidly grounded in their own identity and be given every opportunity they desire.”
“I thank those who are engaged in this work of integration, which requires great effort, but at times also encounters misunderstanding and ingratitude, even within the Church.”
In taking his leave, the Pope greeted prison inmates, and thanked the Salesians for their courage. The latter have a mission in the area.
For Francis, the next and final stop of the day, before returning to Bratislava, was Košice’s Lokomotiva Stadium (pictured). Here, amid the shouts, the Holy Father greeted young people in their own language: Dobrý večer! (Good evening!).
In his address, the Pope urged young people not to listen to those who “speak of dreams” but “sell illusions”.
“Each of us is unique,” he noted. “We were put in this world to be loved for who we are, and to love others in our own unique and special way. Life is not a game, where we can sit on the bench, waiting to be called. No, each of us is unique in God’s eyes. So never let yourselves be “homogenized”, or turned into a nameless piece on an assembly line. None of us is “standard issue”; instead, we are unique, free and alive, called to live a love story with God, to make bold and firm decisions, to accept the marvelous risk of loving.”
“[L]et us not trivialize love, because love is not simply an emotion or feeling, even though it may start that way. Love is not about having everything now; it is not part of today’s throwaway culture. Love is fidelity, gift and responsibility. Today, being really original and revolutionary means rebelling against the culture of the ephemeral, going beyond shallow instincts and momentary pleasures, and choosing to love with every fibre of your being, for the rest of your life.”
“Today, there is a danger of growing up rootless, because we feel we always have to be on the go, to do everything in a hurry. What we see on the internet immediately enters our homes; just one click and people and things pop up on our screen. Those faces can end up becoming more familiar than those of our own families. Bombarded by virtual messages, we risk losing our real roots.
“To grow disconnected from life, or to fantasize in a void, is not a good thing; it is a temptation from the evil one. God wants us to be firmly grounded, connected to life. Never closed, but always open to others! Yes, but you are going to tell me that the world thinks otherwise. We talk a lot about love, but we see another principle at work: people are only concerned about themselves.
“Dear young friends, don’t let this affect you; don’t be disheartened by the things that are not right, by the evil all around us. Don’t be dismayed or yield to those who tell you that nothing will ever change. Once you start believing that, you will soon yield to pessimism, the sickness that ages us from within; your youth will quickly grow old.
“Today, there are so many disruptive forces, so many people ready to blame everyone and everything, spreaders of negativity, professional complainers. Pay no attention to them, for pessimism and complaining are not Christian. The Lord detests glumness and victimhood. We were not made to be downcast, but to look up to heaven.” (FP)