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POPE IN MANILA WITH YOUNG PEOPLE



Pope Francis on Sunday was greeted by thousands of young people at the university of Santo Tomas in Manila where he took questions from a number of students and children. Departing from his prepared remarks, he told all those present that the most important thing we have to learn in life is “how to love and how to be loved”.
First a former street child, 14 year-old Jun Chura, spoke about his experiences in the street: fighting for food scraps among the garbage, sniffing glue from tin cans, suffering abuse from sexual predators… Looking at his young face it was hard to imagine what he must have seen and been through. Actually, better not to try.

Then it was the turn of his young companion, Glyzelle Palomar, to ask the Pope a question – the question of all questions: “Why does God allow children to suffer?”. No wonder she broke down and started to cry. Who wouldn’t? Who hasn’t?

Maybe that’s when Pope Francis decided his prepared remarks to the young people gathered at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila were simply not enough, that his youthful audience expected (that they needed) something more. That if ever there was a moment to speak from the heart – this was it. And he did.

He spoke about crying: “Only when we too can cry about the things you said can we come close to answering that question: why do children suffer so much?”. Today’s world doesn’t know how to cry. “If you don’t learn how to cry”, said Pope Francis, “you cannot be a good Christian…Be courageous: don’t be afraid to cry”.

Next came a young civil law student who asked whether, in an era of social media, we no longer know the meaning of love. This gave the Pope the opportunity to clarify how the “information overload” that comes with our communications-saturated society is not in itself a bad thing – unless we have so much information we don’t know what to do with it. The most important thing we have to learn in life, he said, is “how to love and how to be loved”. There are three languages, he added: “the languages of the mind, heart and hands”. It is important to feel what you think and what you do, and to do what you think and what you feel. And always in harmony, one with the other. At that point, Pope Francis played the part of the University Professor, asking his audience to repeat the paradigm after him: “Think. Feel. Do”.

Finally, a question about reconciling career with service, allowed the Pope to reflect on “the God of surprises” and on the need to let ourselves be “surprised by God’s love”. Pope Francis also admonished his young listeners to make sure they pay special attention to the poor, learning from the poor, and coming to know their own poverty and their need to receive. “Do you let ourselves be evangelised by those you serve? Do you ask the poor to give you the wisdom they have?”, he challenged.

In synthesis, these were the messages Pope Francis left with the youth of the Philippines. But, to tell you the truth, I really felt he was talking to me. Maybe he was.

With the Pope in Manila – I’m Seŕn-Patrick Lovett

 

 




 

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