By Catholic News Service
TURIN, Italy (CNS) — In a world of “soap-bubble values,” hypocrisy and delusion, Pope Francis told young people to fight back with real love and told workers to build a new economy based on creativity and courage.
He also asked the Waldensians, whom the Catholic Church excommunicated and persecuted hundreds of years ago, for forgiveness.
“I ask you for forgiveness for the un-Christian, even inhuman, attitude and behavior that we had against you over history,” he told representatives and members of the Waldensian community June 22 in Turin.
“In the name of Jesus Christ, forgive us,” he said during a visit to the temple, making him the first pope in 800 years to visit a Waldensian place of worship.
The historic gesture was part of Pope Francis’ two-day pastoral trip to the northern Italian city. The pope visited June 21-22 to venerate the Shroud of Turin as well as commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of St. John Bosco.
During the trip, he spent private time with his Italian relatives who are from northern Italy; had lunch with juvenile detainees, immigrants and homeless people; visited with the sick; celebrated Mass in a major outdoor square; and met separately with workers, young people and members of the Salesians.
The pope called for Christian unity by making sure people focus on God first and differences later, in his talk to the Waldensians and representatives of the Methodist, evangelical, Lutheran and other Christian communities.
Being brothers and sisters in the faith, like in a family, doesn’t mean being identical, it means “having in common the same origins,” he said.
Waldensian Pastor Eugenio Bernardini told the pope his visit represented climbing over a wall that had been erected “eight centuries ago when the Waldensian movement was accused of heresy and excommunicated from the Roman Church.”
The pastor asked: “What was the sin of the Waldensians? Being a movement of evangelization” by laypeople on the move, sharing the Bible in people’s native languages, rather than the Latin.
He gave the pope a reproduction of the very first Bible printed in French, which the Waldensians had commissioned in 1532.
The pope said that by cooperating and working together with eyes fixed on Christ, “the Lord will help us live that communion that came before” there was conflict.
The pope told young people how to live out real love and hold onto hope in a world that disrespects, uses and deceives people.
With so many wars being waged around the world, how people can trust today’s political candidates and global leaders to do something about it, especially if they have financial investments in the arms industry, he asked.
Being “two-faced is the currency of the day,” he said.
Invested interests are what kept many past atrocities from being stopped, he said, including being the reason why, during World War II, the Allies did not bomb rail lines being used to send Jews, Christians, Gypsies and homosexuals to concentration camps to be killed.
“If you trust only in men, you have lost,” he told young people; instead, trust in Christ and go against the grain.
“For you who live in this economic, also cultural, hedonist, consumeristic situation, with ‘soap-bubble’ values, these values that don’t hold up, do things that are constructive,” no matter how small they are, and unite people with each other and solid ideals.
“This is the best antidote against this distrust in life,” he said.
It’s also important that love be: concrete — it is experienced in actions, not words; communicative; respectful; and a form of sacrifice by serving others.
The pope then warned them he was going to make himself unpopular by using a word “no one likes,” but “sometimes the pope has to risk things in order to tell the truth.”
The word is “chaste,” he said, as love between two people has to be lived chastely.
“It is a love that considers the life of the other as sacred: I respect you, I don’t want to use you,” he said, adding he recognized “it’s not easy,” especially overcoming the current hedonist and “easy” concept of love.
When meeting with workers, employers and the unemployed, the pope emphasized the importance of saying “no” to a throwaway economy, the idolatry of money, corruption, and unfairness, which generates violence.
The pope said immigration “increases competition, but migrants are not to be blamed because they are victims of injustice,” he said.
All members of society have to collaborate to make sure work doesn’t harm people’s dignity, puts the common good first, and strongly protects the rights of women, “who also carry the biggest burden in taking care of the home, children and older people.”
He said women “are still discriminated against, even at work.”
“Work is necessary not only for the economy, but also for the human person, for their dignity” and for feeling a part of the nation and community, he said.
“Be courageous,” he said, and dare to move forward in hope, being creative and “artisans of the future.”
Pope Francis urged Salesian priests and sisters to teach kids to “not be afraid” and offer them practical training in key skills for “times of crisis” like the electrician and plumbing trades.
The order’s founder, St. John Bosco, was from the Turin region, and he was a pioneer in vocational education and worked with poor and abandoned children.
Pope Francis explained he had gone to a Salesian boarding school when his mother remained temporarily paralyzed after giving birth to her fifth child. He said it was with the Salesians that “I learned to love Our Lady.”
“The Salesians helped me face life without fear and obsession, to move forward with joy and in prayer.”
During his brief time in Turin, the pope also visited the church where his paternal grandparents were married and where his father, Mario, was baptized. He said the trip was like a “homecoming” as he used to make the trip from Buenos Aires, Argentina. He spent time with six of his cousins and their families, about 30 relatives in all, the Vatican said.
The pope’s father and other family members, including his grandmother, Rosa, left for Argentina in 1929.