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HomeNewsEuropeRoberto Benigni at World Children’s Day: ‘Open your eyes and dream'

Roberto Benigni at World Children’s Day: ‘Open your eyes and dream’

Speaking after Mass in St Peter’s Square for World Children’s Day, the Italian comic says that the Sermon on the Mount is “the only sensible thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”

By Joseph Tulloch

The Italian actor and comedian Roberto Benigni is best known in the English-speaking world for his 1997 film Life is Beautiful, which won three Oscars.

But, in his native country, he’s just as famous for his monologues, which blend his trademark exuberance and humour with commentary on politics and literature.

All of these classic elements were present in the monologue Benigni delivered to a packed St Peter’s Square on Sunday, following Mass for the first World Children’s Day.

Benigni speaks with the Pope in St Peter's Square

Benigni speaks with the Pope in St Peter’s Square

The Italian actor addressed the Pope – and the thousands of children who had gathered in the square – on subjects ranging from dreams and fairytales to doubt, war, and Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Below are a few excerpts from his speech.

Dreams

“I can see you here, full of dreams. You can feel this buzzing, a hive of dreams, a swarm …. Dream! It’s the most beautiful thing in the world. But I want to tell you a secret. You’ll tell me you know how to dream, you’ll say you just have to close your eyes, sleep, and dream. … No, no. I’ll tell you a secret – to dream, you don’t have to close your eyes. You have to open them! You have to open your eyes, read, write, invent.”

Fairytales

“Kids have to read everything. All the fairytales, which are so important! You’ll ask me, what’s the point of fairytales, with the princesses, the orcs, the dragons? No, fairytales don’t tell children that dragons exist – they already know that! Fairytales teach children that dragons can be defeated.”

Benigni and the Pope embrace at the beginning of his monologue

Benigni and the Pope embrace at the beginning of his monologue

Difficulties

“Do difficult things – the more difficult they are, the better! When you say: ‘I can’t manage this; it’s too hard’, that’s what you have to do! Difficult things. And if you mess up, don’t worry! You make mistakes? It’s fine – make a mistake and then make a mistake again, try and try again. Mistakes are necessary, useful, and sometimes beautiful – for example, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. What a beautiful mistake!”

Doubts

“I know that you’re still small, you’re at that age when you don’t know what to do, you have a lot of doubts, but don’t worry – you’ll grow up, and then you’ll have even more! When I was little, my mum told me ‘Robertino, learn things now, because when you grow up you won’t understand anything anymore.’ She was right – but it’s ok. Don’t trust people who tell you: ‘Be sure, stick to your path’. No! The opposite: you have to be unsure. The more unsure, indecisive, skeptical, and doubtful you are, the more doubts you have, the better. Certainties are nice, but uncertainty is nicer.”

St Peter's Square during the event

St Peter’s Square during the event

The Sermon on the Mount

“In life, people give a lot of advice. But I can honestly say: the only sensible thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life, do you know who I heard it from? From Jesus. In the Gospel, the Sermon on the Mount. When Jesus – it’s enchanting, so beautiful, a beauty you can’t resist – when Jesus gives these lists we have to memorise. Blessed are the humble, the peacemakers, the merciful … Exactly, blessed are the merciful, that is to say, taking care of others’ pain, being sensitive, forgiving. Basically, being profoundly good. That’s what Jesus said, and I tell you, it seems to me to be the only sensible thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life, the only good idea that’s ever been expressed in human history.”

War

“We know that, very often, the world is governed by people who don’t know what mercy is, what love is, people who commit the most serious and most stupid of sins: war … What we say can become true; the big problem is finding the right words, the words that make things come true. For example, nobody has yet found the right word, the magic word, to put an end to war, like ‘open sesame’, ‘stop war’, and the war stops. We haven’t found it – we haven’t managed it. But look – that word exists. I’m sure that, among you, there’s someone who will find the word to put a stop to war forever. I know it! I can feel it! Because that word exists! One of you has to find it, we’ll find it together, we have to search for it, all together, with passion, with sincerity, we have to search for it in every language, with imagination, and we’ll find it, you’ll find it!”

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