“Many times I have found myself in a crisis of faith: as a young man, when I was in the seminary, as a priest, religious, as a bishop and even as a Pope.” But a Christian “who hasn’t had a crisis of faith, is a Christian who’s missing something”. Many Christians are “disguised” as saints. Pope Francis was in Villa Nazareth to meet the students, alumni and community leaders, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Foundation. The Pontiff addressed a full spectrum of themes, available to answer even intimate questions. It was Pope Bergoglio’s second visit at the male and female College and home founded by Father Domenico Tardini for disadvantaged but talented young people. The first was a surprise visit during a pre-Christmas Mass, in 2013. The Pope’s visit comes twenty years after that of St. John Paul II, and ten years after that of Benedict XVI.
“Here people don’t come to climb or to earn money but to follow the footsteps of Jesus.” It’s the identikit of Villa Nazareth inscribed in the chapel where the Pope – arrived at 16:50 of Saturday June 18 – commented with students The Good Samaritan, one of his favourite parables.
“May the Lord deliver us from the many brigands and from the priests who have no time to listen”, and “from the doctors of the law who want to present faith in Jesus Christ with mathematical rigidity.”
The “wisdom of the Gospel” entrusts us with a major imperative: “make your hands dirty.” Shortly after 17: 30, on schedule, Francis reached the podium and received the welcoming address of Monsignor Claudio Maria Celli, executive Vice-President of Villa Nazareth. He assured: “The parable of the Good Samaritan will become our Biblical icon, and we will pursue our commitment to take care of others with generous availability.” Shortly before, in his welcoming address to the Pope in the institute’s chapel, Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, 92, on a wheelchair, the institute’s “host”, as president of the Domenico Tardini Foundation – that runs the male and female college for needy and meritorious students since 1986 – recalled that Fr Domenico Tardini, the priest from Rome that founded the Institute “devoted everything to this endeavour. Those who care for Villa Nazareth should do the same, for it is a work of God.” From the open-air podium set up in the small football field, where he stayed for one and a half hours, surrounded by participants under the hot sun, Francis spoke for over an hour with the students, answering seven questions.
“It’s sad to see humanity in stand-by!”. “You must dare!” “Risk for noble ideals, risk making your hands dirty, so as not to become like a mummy!”, was the Pope’s appeal to youths. Young people “need the testimony of a slap in the face” that awakens from “self-deception” like the illusion of success or “the cult of the ego”, in a world where “self-mirroring is a prevailing trend.”
“To speak of genocide of Christians is a reductionism.” “We should not make a sociological reductionism of something which is a mystery of faith, that is, Martyrdom”, the Pope said. In addition to heroic martyrdom there is also “everyday martyrdom,
the martyrdom of honesty in the paradise of bribes.”
“Individual gratification is unrelated with gratuitousness.” In this civilization of “do ut des”, where “everything is negotiated and everything is purchased” we must “be deeply committed to distinguish the saints from those disguised as saints.”
“There are many saints disguised as such, who are not Christians.”
“Major injustices” are a “deadly sin”, for they “cause many new forms of poverty” and “slavery to job.” “The atmosphere at global level – the Pope denounced – is one whereby men and women have been put at the centre of the economy”, replaced by “mammon.” “We are slaves and victims of a deathly economic system.”
There is the “great welcome” to “those arriving from distant lands” and there is the “small welcome”, “when you come home from work and your teen-age daughter needs your help.” “We are facing a civilization with closed doors and closed hearts”, Francis reiterated broaching a theme that is dear to him: “We must recover the meaning of reception.” “I’m not only speaking of the welcome to migrants – he pointed out – that’s a huge global political problem. I also refer to the daily welcome to the person who seeks us to share his complaints, his problems, and comes to us for a word of comfort.” “It hurts me when I see churches with closed doors”, he pointed out. Those churches “represent a community with a closed heart.”
There is need for “the apostolate of listening.” “We find no time to listen. But unless we are open to welcome we are not Christians and we will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. It’s maths, it’s the logic of the Gospel.”
In his meeting with the youths Pope Francis mentioned also the “culture of the provisional” – a theme he mentioned two days before in St. John Lateran – that undermines the sacrament of marriage and its indissolubility. Francis spoke in clear terms:
“if somebody is not properly prepared or sure about the mystery of the sacrament of marriage, it’s better not to receive it.”
“There are no eternal leaders. Our only everlasting leader is the Father.” The Pope’s farewell from Villa Nazareth was under the banner of unity. “ “If all men are not saved no one will be saved”, is Francis’ slogan, reworded from Saint Paul. May you “form your offspring, the disciples, pass them the torch so they may pass it on.” “You should not allow internal divisions”, for “particularisms are not good”, he concluded.