Early on Wednesday morning, 16 March, before the General Audience, the Holy Father met with several hundred Italian students from “La Zolla” Institute, a lay-run Catholic school in Milan. In his address, he asked them to think about the boys and girls in Ukraine “who have to flee from bombs. They are suffering so much”. The following is a translation of the Pope’s words.
Dear students of “La Zolla” Institute,
I am pleased to welcome you here and I offer a cordial welcome to you, to your parents, to your teachers, to your grandparents: there are many grandparents here. It is very important for you young people and children to talk to your grandparents: very important to speak with grandparents. It is important. Your school of Christian inspiration is a precious reality for the area of Milan and it offers a valuable educational service in collaboration with families. It is important to build an educational community in which, together with teachers, parents can be the protagonists of the cultural growth of their children. This is the educational pact, dialogue between parents and teachers. There is always dialogue, for the good of young people, of children. We must always take care of this educational pact which has been broken several times. Dialogue and also working together, as you do, parents and teachers. It is important to build an educational community This is very important.
To you boys and girls, I would like to leave two keywords that come from my heart: sharing and welcoming, Sharing and welcoming, let us say them together: “sharing and welcoming”. Only the boys and girls, not the grown-ups! Say it: sharing and welcoming, all together! [the kids repeat: sharing and welcoming]. Good, learn them well. Sharing: do not tire of maturing together with the people around you: classmates, parents, grandparents, educators, friends. There is a need to “team up”, to grow not only in knowledge, but also in weaving bonds to build a more united and fraternal society. Because peace, which we need so much, is built by hand through sharing. There are no machines to build peace, no; peace is always made by hand. Peace in families, peace in schools... And how do I handcraft it? With my work, with my sharing.
The second word: welcome. Today’s world puts so many barriers between people. And the result of these barriers is exclusion, rejection. This is dangerous, if you reject anyone. Even at school — listen to this carefully boys and girls — at school sometimes there is a classmate who is a bit strange, a bit ridiculous or who we do not like: never reject him or her! No bullying: no, please, no bullying, no, we are all equal. Even if a classmate is a bit unpleasant, poor thing, I approach him or her with friendliness. Always build bridges, do not reject anyone, please! Do not reject. Because rejection always cause wars. The result of barriers is exclusion and rejection. There are barriers between States, between social groups, but also between people. And often even the phone you keep looking at becomes a barrier that isolates you in a world that you have at your fingertips. How beautiful it is instead to look people in the eye, to listen to their story, to welcome their identity; to create, through friendship, bridges with brothers and sisters of different traditions, ethnic groups and religions. Only by doing this will we build, with God’s help, a future of peace. I like your motto — “Stupìti” (amazed): it’s beautiful. Always amazed, seeing beauty, amazed and grateful. But be careful, because there is a danger of becoming stupid: no, no! Amazed, not stupid (Ed. the Holy Father jokes on the meaning of the two words in Italian: stupìti which means amazed and stupidi which means stupid) Understood?
Thank you for this encounter, thank you for your witness. I pray for you and you, please do not forget to pray for me. And now I ask you to think, to spare a thought: let us think of the many boys and girls, the young people who are at war, who are suffering today in Ukraine. They are like us, like you: six, seven, ten, 14 years old and you have a future ahead, a social security of growing up in a peaceful society. Instead these little ones, even very small ones, have to flee from bombs. They are suffering so much. With the cold there is there ... Let us think of it. Each of us think of these children, these girls, these boys, these young people. Today they are suffering; today, 3,000 kilometres from here. Let us pray to the Lord. I will pray and you will do so with your heart, with your mind, pray with me:
“Lord Jesus, I ask you for the boys, the girls, the young people who are living under the bombs, who see this terrible war, who have nothing to eat, who must flee by leaving home, everything. Lord Jesus, look at these children, these young people: look upon them and protect them. They are the victims of our pride, of us adults. Lord Jesus, bless these children and protect them”.
Together let us pray to Our Lady to protect them: Hail Mary...
And now, in our silence, let us receive the blessing of the Lord: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
And thank you for this encounter: thank you, thank you. And do not forget, don’t forget: amazed and grateful. All together: amazed and grateful.