Address to Students
Fr. Félix Varela Cultural Center, Havana
20 September 2015
Unprepared Remarks of the Holy Father
You said something which I had wrote down and underlined. You said that we have to know how to welcome and accept those who think differently than we do. Honestly, sometimes we are very closed. We shut ourselves up in our little world: “Either things go my way or not at all”. And you went even further. You said that we must not become enclosed in our little ideological or religious “worlds”… that we need to outgrow forms of individualism.
When a religion becomes a “little world”, it loses the best that it has, it stops worshiping God, believing in God. It becomes a little world of words, of prayers, of “I am good and you are bad”, of moral rules and regulations. When I have my ideology, my way of thinking, and you have yours, I lock myself up in this little world of ideology.
Open hearts and open minds. If you are different than I am, then why don’t we talk? Why do we always throw stones at one another over what separates us, what makes us different? Why don’t we extend a hand where we have common ground? Why not try to speak about what we have in common, and then we can talk about where we differ. But I’m saying “talk”; I’m not saying “fight”. I am not saying retreat into our “little worlds”, to use your word. But this can only happen when I am able to speak about what I have in common with the other person, about things we can work on together.
In Buenos Aires, in a new parish in an extremely poor area, a group of university students were building some rooms for the parish. So the parish priest said to me: “Why don’t you come one Saturday and I’ll introduce them to you”. They were building on Saturdays and Sundays. They were young men and women from the university. So I arrived, I saw them and they were introduced to me: “This is the architect. He’s Jewish. This one is Communist. This one is a practicing Catholic”. They were all different, yet they were all working for the common good.
This is called social friendship, where everyone works for the common good. Social enmity instead destroys. A family is destroyed by enmity. A country is destroyed by enmity. The world is destroyed by enmity. And the greatest enmity is war. Today we see that the world is being destroyed by war, because people are incapable of sitting down and talking. “Good, let’s negotiate. What can we do together? Where are we going to draw the line? But let’s not kill any more people”. Where there is division, there is death: the death of the soul, since we are killing our ability to come together. We are killing social friendship. And this is what I’m asking you today: to find ways of building social friendship”.
Thank you very much. I now leave you with my best wishes. For you I wish… everything I told you; that is what I wish for you. I am going to pray for you. And I ask you to pray for me. And if any of you are not believers – and you can’t pray because you don’t believe – at least wish me well. May God bless you and bring you to tread this path of hope which leads to the culture of encounter, while avoiding those “little worlds” that our companion spoke about. May God bless all of you.
I am very happy to be with you here in this Cultural Center which is so important for Cuban history. I thank God for this opportunity to meet so many young people who, by their work, studies and training, are dreaming of, and already making real, the future of Cuba.
Hope is a path of solidarity. The culture of encounter should naturally lead to a culture of solidarity. I was struck by what Leonardo said at the beginning, when he spoke of solidarity as a source of strength for overcoming all obstacles. Without solidarity, no country has a future. Beyond all other considerations or interests, there has to be concern for that person who may be my friend, my companion, but also someone who may think differently than I do, someone with his own ideas yet just as human and just as Cuban as I am. Simple tolerance is not enough; we have to go well beyond that, passing from a suspicious and defensive attitude to one of acceptance, cooperation, concrete service and effective assistance. Do not be afraid of solidarity, service and offering a helping hand, so that no one is excluded from the path.
This path of life is lit up by a higher hope: the hope born of our faith in Christ. He made himself our companion along the way. Not only does he encourage us, he also accompanies us; he is at our side and he extends a friendly hand to us. The Son of God, he wanted to become someone like us, to accompany us on our way. Faith in his presence, in his friendship and love, lights up all our hopes and dreams. With him at our side, we learn to discern what is real, to encounter and serve others, and to walk the path of solidarity.
Dear young people of Cuba, if God himself entered our history and became flesh in Jesus, if he shouldered our weakness and sin, then you need not be afraid of hope, or of the future, because God is on your side. He believes in you, and he hopes in you.
Dear friends, thank you for this meeting. May hope in Christ, your friend, always guide you along your path in life. And, please, remember to pray for me. May the Lord bless all of you.