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Pope: ‘Bullying destroys life, respect each person for whom they are’

Pope Francis participates in the closing session of the “Scholas Occurrentes” event on “Eco-Educational Cities” bringing together 50 Mayors from Latin America and Europe.

By Salvatore Cernuzio

The possibility of a trip to Argentina; a stark condemnation of bullying that “destroys” life; the invitation to respect each person “as they are”, in their “authenticity”; the dangers for the many children who do not finish school and the alarm over the spread of pornography and the “commercialisation of love” of which adolescents, in particular, are victims were some of the themes upon which Pope Francis reflected during his meeting with Mayors and young people from Latin America and Europe.

With Mayors from Latin America and Europe

Pope Francis answered questions put to him by Latin American and European members of the great Scholas Occurrentes network, the organisation set up in 2001 in Argentina as a cultural response to the country’s political, economic and social crisis. It has since spread throughout the world, especially in the poorest areas, thanks to the support and contribution of the then Archbishop, Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Scholas Occurrentes, which has become a Pontifical Foundation, on the occasion of its tenth anniversary organised a congress in Rome entitled “Eco-educational Cities’ with 50 Latin American and European mayors. The event ended today, 25 May, with a big meeting in the Augustinianum Institute in Rome in the presence of Pope Francis during which there was dialogue, moments of music and singing, videos, greetings and the exchange of gifts.

The first question put to the Pope regarded a possible visit to his native country. “My idea,” he said, “is to go next year, we will see if we can.”

Pope Francis during the Scholas Occurentes event

Pope Francis during the Scholas Occurentes event

Educational emergency

Responding to a question on the current educational emergency and the need for a Global Compact on Education, something he has long called for in every country, the Pope decried the fact that so many young people today lack the possibility of receiving a good education.

“How often, the lack of sex education, leads to the commercialisation of love. Love is not to commercialise and young people are not to be used…,” he said.

“Educating young people”, he said, “is the duty of parents and of society as a whole,” and he noted that children who are unable to complete their schooling end up being a burden on societies.

The Holy Father also reflected on the ‘commercialisation’ of sex and said it is the responsibility of schools and educators to focus on this topic and he encouraged those present to carry forward this commitment.

Pope Francis during the Scholas Occurentes event

Pope Francis during the Scholas Occurentes event

Respect for authenticity

Both virtually and directly, Pope Francis was asked questions about homophobia, racism, bullying.

Bullying, above all, “is very serious and destroys lives,” he said, “Every man, every woman, every boy, every girl has the duty to be ‘authentic’, to be themselves and the right to be respected.”

The Pope then broadened his gaze to the crises afflicting the world and, reiterating the concept as he did during the hardest moments of the pandemic, he repeated: “In order to come out of a  crisis you have to identify it and accompany it.

“You do not come out of a crisis alone, but accompanied (…), you do not come out of a crisis in the same way: you come out either better, or worse.”

The Scholas Occurentes event in Rome

The Scholas Occurentes event in Rome

Maradona’s jersey

Among the many gifts for the Pope that included a ceramic baby Jesus to books, t-shirts, paintings, and baskets full of handmade products – there was a Napoli football team jersey with the number 10: the number of Armando Maradona.

“You are the number 10 of the Church,” the team President said, and  he asked the Pope to “kick all the injustices in the world.”

Pope Francis during the Scholas Occurentes event

Pope Francis during the Scholas Occurentes event

Remembering his grandparents in Buenos Aires

The Pope spent time reflecting on a theme that is dear to him, that of the elderly,  of “los abuelos”: the grandparents.

Recalling his own grandparents and roots, Pope Francis said “I had the grace of having my grandparents alive until I was very old, the first grandfather who died I was 16, the other died when I was already a bishop.”

He recalled how they helped with bringing up a numerous family and said they taught him their language and values.

The importance of roots

At 86, the Pope does not forget those moments, nor should anyone else:  “There is always the feeling of having to go back to one’s roots,’ he says: “A society is ruined when there is a split between the roots and the trunk. (…) If we do not take the sap from the roots, we dry up.”

And quoting from the Prophet Joel, chapter 2, verse 1, he said: “The old shall dream and the young shall see visions.”

“This is something they can do only if they are connected to each other,” he said.

Pope Francis during the Scholas Occurentes event

Pope Francis during the Scholas Occurentes event

Don’t abandon the elderly

Recalling stories he heard as a bishop in Argentina when he visited old-age homes, the Pope issued the appeal never to abandon the elderly, whom he said “must not die in isolation…”.

He said the nurses would tell him of “old people left alone for months on end by their relatives,” and he warned that “a society that does not take care of this relationship becomes ideologised, promotes sectarianism…”

Adelante

“Adelante”, the Pope finally said to the young people present and to the entire Scholas network: “Go forward,”  before handing the Majors honorary Laudato sì Schools diplomas: “This is not the finishing line, but a new beginning”.

Pope Francis at the Scholas Occurentes event

Pope Francis at the Scholas Occurentes event

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