Pope listens and responds to youth in new podcast

God loves us in spite of our mistakes

 God loves us  in spite of our mistakes  ING-030
28 July 2023

Ahead of World Youth Day in Lisbon, Vatican Radio — Vatican News produced a new episode of the “Popecast”, an initiative that was launched on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Pope Francis’ Pontificate. In the new podcast the Pope enters into virtual conversation with a group of young people who confide in him and share their personal stories.

“Esta es la juventud del Papa...”. Who are the Pope’s young people? Who are today’s youth? From the microcosm of World Youth Day (wyd) — the next one will be held in Lisbon — it is perhaps difficult to capture the undertones of a generation characterized by advancing technologies, one marked by so many fragilities, but also by the desire to do, to discover and to reinvent itself. Speaking on behalf of diverse generations such as Generation X, Generation Y and millennials were the following young people: Giona, disabled and transgender; Edward and Valerij, charged with theft and robbery; Arianna, who suffers from bipolar disorder and takes refuge in sleep to flee from life’s anguish; Giuseppe, who spends large part of his days playing video games; and many others whose faces we don’t know. We only know their fears, desires and projects.

“I remember the podcast”!

“Yes, I remember the podcast”, Pope Francis says. The first one took place in March for the tenth anniversary of his Pontificate. A second one was organized in view of wyd, with young men and women from different backgrounds as the protagonists. When they participated, they were not yet aware that their voices would be heard through the speakers of a computer in Casa Santa Marta. Here then is all the authenticity of people who vent, tell their stories, confide in one another. Sitting in front of that computer is the Successor of Peter who now and again winces when he hears words like suicide, conviction and marginalization. He smiles at the variety of accents. His concern is to share a word with everyone. And that word is always “God”, the horizon of life. Another is “onward”.

The story of Giona, who is disabled and transgender

He says it to everyone. He says it to Giona, who is disabled, homosexual, transgender and a believer, who does not claim anything but only wishes to share his story: “Nurturing a faith that felt truly my own helped me accept my disabled, atypical body, and to never feel truly alone, not even in difficult times, because I was aware that the one who knows me from before my existence would never entrust me with a cross that would be too heavy for my shoulders”, he said. “When I realized that I was a transgender person I would have preferred to not believe…. What about that marvelous and perfect body that was his work? I felt torn apart by the dichotomy between faith and transgender identity, both arms of the same body, mine”! Giona explained that the first people in whom he confided tried to dissuade him, predicting “a dark journey”, that of “Christ’s deserters”. “I felt guilty”.

“God loves us just as we are”

“The Lord always walks with us, always”, the Pope says. “The Lord is not disgusted by any of us. Even if we are sinners, he draws near to us to help us. The Lord is not disgusted by our realities. He loves us just as we are. This is God’s crazy love… God loves us just as we are. God always caresses us. God is father, mother, brother, everything to us. And it is difficult to understand this, but he loves us just as we are. Do not give up … Keep going…”

Edward and Valerij: marginalization and anger

Edward, a Romanian, has stolen, dealt, committed robberies in response to a condition of poverty and marginalization, and to being ridiculed for his old clothing, among other things. He describes himself as “a good but very fragile boy”. Valerij, from Russia, has used violence against property and people, venting an inner rage resulting from being abandoned in an orphanage by his parents. The pandemic acted as a spark that made him explode. He confides that he has no dreams for the future and that he is only waiting for the end of his sentence. Both are living in the Kayros community centre for rescuing minors.

Mistakes should not bury life

Their story is a “human story”, the Pope says, a “story that moves forward amid success and mistakes”.

“Society is often cruel because one mistake marks you for life… That accusing finger that destroys. I will tell you something: you were not alone on your journey; even when you were making bad mistakes, the Lord was there. And the Lord is ready to take you by the hand to help you rise up again. It was he who created the historical circumstances to lift both…. Life is not buried by mistakes. Our mistakes often make us reflect in order to go forward”.

Arianna, the illness and God’s salvation

Arianna is not a minor, but she is still like a kid. She suffers from bipolar disorder which keeps her “trapped” and prevents her from working. She sleeps to escape from a life of anguish marked by difficulties, even psychological ones. She speaks with a clarity that comes from feeling “saved by God”. The Pope is moved when he hears her story and asks to hear some of her words again, especially when she says her life is like being on a “swing between the desire for suicide and a heart that explodes with joy”.

Do not lose the adventure of life

The Pope puts her on guard: “That kind of life runs the risk of becoming a labyrinth”.

“Always look forward, do not lose sight of the horizon that will help you strive forward. It is God’s horizon. Do not lose this adventure of life. Do not enter into labyrinths of conscience which in the end do not save us…”.

The Pontiff also spoke of the importance of following the necessary psychological treatment: “We all have psychological and physical wounds. All of us are wounded by life and by sin, but take care of that”.

Agustina and young Argentinians

Agustina, from Argentina, is a young person who accompanies young people. She speaks about the young people from her country who are taking action for a “better” future. “Argentina… your topic, Holy Father”. With a sparkle in his eye, he tunes in to his fellow citizen and tells “a story”: “There were once some angels who went to God to complain: ‘You, eternal Father, are not just, because you gave each of us one richness… but you gave Argentina everything. She is rich in everything’. And the eternal Father replied: ‘But I did notice that, and to offset it I gave her Argentinians’. Argentina’s problem is that we often do not have the strength to move forward”.

The example of the World Cup

The last World Cup is an example, says Pope Francis. In the match against the Netherlands, Argentina was ahead. “At the beginning, during the first half, the score was 2-0. That was great! And what did the Argentinians do? ‘We won’! In the end they had to win with a penalty kick. France, 3-1. ‘Ah, we have already won’! But there was still the second half to be played. In the end, they won with a penalty kick. We believe that something is over because we grow tired of the journey and we stop halfway”.

Valeria: the dreams for and criticism of the Church

Valeria is young, but she does not speak like a young person but rather, on their behalf. She is a religion teacher. She is a spokesperson for the requests, petitions and complaints that she collects during her service. Like the request for a more transparent Church, updated in her methods and close to the people. Essentially, “a Church on a journey”, the Pope observes.

“The Church is Church when she is on a journey. On the contrary, if she is closed within herself, she is a religious sect. Many times in the Church there are struggles between small groups, one against the other. When differences turn into Parties, this destroys unity… We are all one in the Church and this is her greatness”.

Giuseppe’s virtual life

Giuseppe is the last one. He has dropped out of university and spends a large part of his time at home playing video games, weaving only virtual relationships. His is not a testimony but the justification of a life choice. “At the end of the day, I am doing no harm, and thus I don’t get harmed”. The Pope listens, and from a grandfather, he turns into a father, sparing no harsh words because perhaps kids like Giuseppe need a jolt.

“You have really developed a lifestyle, a way of being in contact with people, but it is a sterile contact. Like those they have in ‘supervised therapy’ in which family members can only be seen from behind a glass. You are without a horizon…. One cannot live without a horizon, you know? In time, you will wind up being bored with yourself”.

The invitation to participate in wyd

“Are you going to wyd”? He asks everyone at the end of the podcast. Some will, some will not, some do not even know what he is talking about. However, the Pope’s invitation stands for everyone: “It is worth participating in wyd. It is worth taking a risk! Those who do not take risks, do not move forward. It is worth going there, and then we will talk about it later”.

He is almost at the door, caught up in his summer schedule which is marked by everything except rest, when there is a final request. “You really have to hear this, Holy Father”. It is a voice message from nine-year-old Alessandro, who launches the proposal for a wdc, World Day for Children.

“I like that a lot! And we can have grandparents organize it. Asking grandparents to organize a Day like that. A beautiful idea. I will think about it and see how we can go about getting it done”.

Salvatore Cernuzio