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Friday, August 19, 2016

About renewing friendships

Marking the 37th Meeting for friendship between people, which begins today in Rimini on the theme: You are good for me, the Holy Father has sent a Message, signed by the Secretary of State, to the Bishop of that place, His Excellency, Francesco Lambiasi.

Letter sent on behalf of His Holiness, Pope Francis
on the occasion of the 37th annual
Meeting for friendship between people

His Excellency, the Most Reverend
Francesco Lambiasi
Bishop of Rimini

Your Excellency,

On the occasion of the XXXVII Meeting for friendship between people, I am happy to send to you, to the organizers, the volunteers and all those who will take part, the good wishes and the greetings of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, along with my own personal wishes for every success for this significant event.

The theme of your encounter - You are good for me - is courageous.  In fact, it takes courage to make such an assertion while so many aspects of the world around us seem to point in the opposite direction.  Too often, people give in to the temptation to close in our horizons to our own narrow interests so that others become superfluous, or worse yet, a nuisance, a hindrance.  But this is not in our nature: from the time that we are babies, we seek the beauty of relationships with other human beings, learning to meet others, recognizing and respecting them as partners and brothers, children of a common Father in heaven.  Instead, individualism distances us from other people, especially focusing on limits and defects, weakening the desire and the capacity of a society where every person can live freely in company with others, enjoying the treasure of his or her dignity.

Faced with such threats to peace and to the security of people and nations, we are called to be aware that first and foremost there is an essential insecurity that makes us afraid of others, as though they were our enemies and would take away vital space and bypass the boundaries that we have created.  In these changing times which we are experiencing, who can imagine saving himself by means of his own strength?  This presumption is the heart of every human conflict.  Following the example of the Lord Jesus, Christians always aim for thoughts that are open to others, no matter who they are, for we never consider anyone definitively lost.  The gospel gives us an evocative image of this attitude: the prodigal son who is feeding the pigs and the father who goes out to the terrace every night, hoping to see him coming back home, in spite of everyone and everything.  How our world would change if this immeasurable hope were to become the lens through which we were always to see others!  Zacchaeus the tax collector and the good thief were both seen by Jesus as God's creatures, in need of a saving embrace.  And even Judas, while he was delivering Jesus into the hands of his adversaries, heard Jesus call out to him: friend.

There is a word that we should never grow tired of repeating and above all of experiencing: dialogue.  We discover that as we open ourselves to others, our gaze does not grow weaker, rather it becomes more and more enriched because it learns to recognize the truth in others, the importance of their experience and background behind what they say, even when these are hidden behind attitudes and choices that we do not share.  A true encounter implies clarity of identity, but at the same time, a willingness to place yourself in someone else's shoes in order to truly grasp, beyond the surface, that which really stirs the heart, whatever they are truly seeking.  In this way, the dialogue can begin, a dialogue that allows us to advance along the path toward new syntheses that enrich both one and the other.  This is the challenge that lies ahead of all men of good will.

Many situations exist in which we feel like mere powerless witnesses, but in reality, these are mysterious invitations for us to rediscover the fundamentals of communion between men (and women) and new beginnings.  In the face of all this, we who are disciples of Jesus, what can we do?  Our task coincides with the mission for which we were chosen by God: to proclaim the gospel which, today more than ever before is translated above all in going out to meet those persons who are wounded, demonstrating to them the strong yet simple presence of Jesus, his consoling mercy and encouragement (Pope Francis, Speech on the occasion of the conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, 6 May 2016).

This is the hope of the Holy Father, who encourages all those participating in the Meeting to be especially mindful of their own personal creative testimony, knowing that what attracts, what overcomes and loosens the chains is not the strength of instruments, but the tenacious meekness of the merciful love of the Father, which everyone can draw from the source of grace that God offers in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, in order that we can share this love with our brothers (and sisters).  He encourages you to continue your commitment to being close to others, competing for the prize of serving them with joy, according to the teachings of Don Giussani: the Christian mindset vibrates with an aptness that makes it capable of bringing out all the good that is in everything that we encounter, for it makes us realize that we participate in the plan that will be accomplished in eternity and which Christ has revealed to us (L. Giussani, S. Alberto, J. Prades, Generating Traces in World History, Rizzoli, Milan, 1998, p. 157).

With these thoughts, His Holiness invokes upon Your Excellency, upon the organizers, the participants and the many volunteers partaking in your Meeting to friendship between people, the light of the Holy Spirit for a fruitful experience of faith and of fraternal communion, and while asking you to pray for him, he willingly sends his Apostolic blessing.

Asking Your Excellency to also receive my own personal best wishes, I take this opportunity to confirm them with distinction.

Your devoted brother,
Piero Cardinal Parolin
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