Pope Francis says "There is a need to meet and see each other's face, to smile and plan, to pray and dream together." FULL TEXT for Social Week



«The planet we hope for. Environment, work, future. Everything is connected "

[Taranto, 21-24 October 2021]

Dear brothers and sisters ,

I cordially greet all of you taking part in the 49 to  Catholic Social Week Italian, convened in Taranto. I address my fraternal greetings to Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, to Archbishop Filippo Santoro and to the Bishops present, to the members of the Scientific and Organizing Committee, to the delegates of the Italian dioceses, to the representatives of the movements and associations, to all. the guests and those who follow the event remotely.

This appointment has a special flavor. There is a need to meet and see each other's face, to smile and plan, to pray and dream together. This is all the more necessary in the context of the crisis generated by Covid, a health and social crisis at the same time. To get out of this, an extra courage is also required from Italian Catholics. We cannot resign ourselves and stand by the window and watch, we cannot remain indifferent or apathetic without taking responsibility towards others and towards society. We are called to be the leaven that makes the dough ferment (cf.  Mt  13:33).

The pandemic has uncovered the illusion of our time of being able to think of ourselves as omnipotent, trampling on the territories we inhabit and the environment in which we live. To get up we must convert to God and learn the good use of his gifts, first of all creation. Do not lack the courage of ecological conversion, but above all do not lack the ardor of  community conversion . For this reason, I hope that the Social Week represents a synodal experience, a sharing full of vocations and talents that the Spirit has aroused in Italy. For this to happen, it is also necessary to listen to the sufferings of the poor, the least, the desperate, the families tired of living in polluted, exploited, burned places, devastated by corruption and degradation.

We need hope. The title chosen for this Social Week in Taranto, a city that symbolizes the hopes and contradictions of our time, is significant: «The planet we hope. Environment, work, future. Everything is connected ». There is a desire for life, a thirst for justice, a longing for fullness that flows from the communities affected by the pandemic. Let's listen to it. It is in this sense that I would like to offer you some reflections that can help you to walk boldly on the path of hope, which we can imagine marked by three "signs".

The first is  attention to crossingsToo many people cross our lives while they are in despair: young people forced to leave their countries of origin to emigrate elsewhere, unemployed or exploited in an infinite precariousness; women who have lost their jobs during a pandemic or are forced to choose between motherhood and profession; workers left at home without opportunities; poor and unaccompanied and unintegrated migrants; elderly abandoned to their solitude; families who are victims of usury, gambling and corruption; entrepreneurs in difficulty and subject to the abuses of the mafia; communities destroyed by the fires ... But there are also many sick people, adults and children, workers forced to laborious or immoral jobs, often in precarious safety conditions. They are faces and stories that challenge us: we cannot remain indifferent. These brothers and sisters of ours are crucified who await the resurrection. The imagination of the Spirit help us to leave no stone unturned for their legitimate hopes to come true.

A second sign indicates  the prohibition of parking . When we witness dioceses, parishes, communities, associations, movements, ecclesial groups tired and disheartened, sometimes resigned to complex situations, we see a Gospel that tends to fade. On the contrary, God's love is never static and renouncing, "everything believes, everything hopes" ( 1 Cor 13: 7  ): it pushes us and forbids us to stop. It sets in motion as believers and disciples of Jesus walking on the streets of the world, following the example of the One who is the way (cf.  Jn 14.6) and walked our streets. We do not therefore stop in the sacristies, we do not form elite groups that isolate themselves and close themselves off. Hope is always on the way and also passes through Christian communities that are daughters of the resurrection who come out, announce, share, endure and struggle to build the Kingdom of God. they limit to denounce, but they assume the responsibility of creating networks of redemption. As I wrote in the Encyclical  Laudato si ', “It is not enough to reconcile, in a middle way, the care for nature with financial income, or the conservation of the environment with progress. On this issue, the middle ground is only a small delay in the disaster. It is about redefining progress. A technological and economic development that does not leave a better world and an entirely superior quality of life cannot be considered progress "(n. 194). Sometimes fear and silence prevail, which end up favoring the action of the wolves of the underworld and of individual interest. We are not afraid to denounce and oppose illegality, but we are not afraid above all of sowing good!

A third road sign is  the turn obligationThe cry of the poor and that of the Earth invoke him. "Hope invites us to recognize that we can always change course, that we can always do something to solve problems" (n. 61). Bishop Tonino Bello, a prophet in the land of Puglia, loved to repeat: «We cannot limit ourselves to hope. We must organize hope! ». A profound conversion awaits us that touches, even before environmental ecology, the human one, the ecology of the heart. The turning point will come only if we are able to train consciences not to seek easy solutions to protect those who are already guaranteed, but to propose lasting change processes, for the benefit of the younger generations. This conversion, aimed at a social ecology, can fuel this time that has been defined as "ecological transition", where the choices to be made cannot only be the result of new technological discoveries, but also of renewed social models. The epoch change we are going through demands an obligation to change. In this sense, let us look at many signs of hope, at many people whom I wish to thank because, often in industrious concealment, they are committed to promoting a different economic model, more equitable and attentive to people.

Here, then, is the planet we hope for: the one where the culture of dialogue and peace fecundate a new day, where work confers dignity on the person and protects creation, where culturally distant worlds converge, animated by a common concern for the common good. Dear brothers and sisters, I accompany your work with prayer and encouragement. I bless you, wishing you to  embody the proposals of these days with passion and concreteness. May the Lord fill you with hope. And don't forget, please, to pray for me.

Rome, San Giovanni in Laterano, 4 October 2021
Feast of St. Francis of Assisi



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