The Youth Corner: Pope Francis to Congolese youth – “From your hands a different future, because the future is in your hands”

Looking at the hands with which a different future can be built, Pope Francis suggests “five ingredients for the future”, like the five fingers.
In the stadium of the Martyrs of Kinshasa, 65,000 young Congolese welcome Pope Francis with songs and dances, with unimaginable joy in a country torn apart by violence and wars. The consequences of conflicts are enormous, especially for young people.

They say as much to the Pope, emphasizing, in their testimonies, that “many of us are forcibly recruited into armed groups. In the country, many young people live in indifference and selfishness, making calculations and programs in their own interest. We want to be young people connected to human and Christian values, but social media disorient us”.

Yet, they want to “build a better world”, they want to work, and build the Church and Congolese society in justice and reconciliation. And they are asking the Pope to be their spokesperson to the “leaders of the world so that they may really take care of young people”.

And Francesco, after thanking them for their welcome and the many hands that greeted him, asks them to look at their hands saying: “Do your hands seem small and weak, empty and unsuitable for such great tasks? I would like to point out one thing: all hands are similar, but no two pairs of hands are the same; no one has hands like yours; you are a unique, unrepeatable, and incomparable resource. No one in history can replace you.”

And what are hands for? “To build or to destroy, to give or to hoard, to love or to hate? You see, you can shake your hand and close it; it becomes a fist; or you can open it and make it available to God and to others. Herein lies the fundamental choice”.

Looking at the hands with which a different future can be built, Pope Francis suggests “five ingredients to build the future”, like the five fingers. “The thumb, the finger closest to the heart, corresponds to prayer, which makes life pulsate”, says the Pope. And it’s not an abstract ingredient, but “the fundamental one, because we can’t do it alone. We are not omnipotent, and when anyone thinks they are, they fail miserably. This is why we must root ourselves in prayer, in listening to the Word of God”.

The second finger, the index finger, is the one with which “we indicate something to others. The others, the community, that’s the second ingredient. Friends, don’t let your youth be marred by loneliness and closure. Always think of yourselves as altogether and you will be happy because the community is the way to feel good about yourself and to be faithful to your call. Instead, individualistic choices seem tempting at first, but then they just leave a big void inside.

“Think of drugs: you hide from others, from real life, to feel omnipotent; and in the end, you find yourself deprived of everything. But think also of the addiction to occultism and witchcraft, which engulfs you in the pangs of fear, vengeance and anger. Do not allow yourselves to be fascinated by false selfish paradises, built on appearances, on easy money or on distorted religiosity”.

But we must also guard against the temptation to “point the finger at someone else, to exclude them because they are of a different origin from yours such as a different region or tribe, which seem to strengthen you in your group and instead represents the denial of the community. You know how it happens: first, you believe the prejudices against others, then you justify the hatred, then the violence and, in the end, you find yourself in the middle of a war”.

“But – I wonder – have you ever talked to people from other groups or have you always been closed in yours? Have you ever listened to the stories of others, have you approached their suffering? Of course, it is easier to condemn someone than to understand them; but the way that God indicates to build a better world passes through others, through the whole and through the community. That is how to build up the Church, broaden horizons, see one’s neighbour in everyone and take care of others.

“The central finger, the middle finger, “which rises above the others as if to remind us of something essential” represents, however, honesty. “Being a Christian is bearing witness to Christ. Now, the first way to do this is to live righteously, as He wants. This means not letting yourself be entangled in the snares of corruption. The Christian can only be honest, otherwise, he betrays his identity.”
“Without honesty, we are not disciples and witnesses of Jesus; we are pagans, idolaters who worship ourselves rather than God, who use others rather than serve them. But – I wonder – how do you defeat the cancer of corruption, which seems to expand and never end? St. Paul helps us, with a simple and ingenious sentence, which you can repeat until you remember it by heart. It is this: ‘Do not let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good'”.

The Pope appeals to young people not to “let themselves be overcome by evil: do not allow yourselves to be manipulated by individuals or groups who try to use you to keep your country in the spiral of violence and instability, so as to continue to control it without regard for anyone. But conquer evil with good: be the transformers of society, the converters of evil into good, of hatred into love, of war into peace”. This can be done because “we are free to choose: don’t allow your life to be swept away by false ideas, don’t let yourself be carried away like a dry log in a dirty river. Be indignant, without ever giving in to the flattery, persuasive but poisoned, of the filth of corruption”.

The ring finger, the finger on which wedding rings are worn, is also the weakest finger, “the one that finds it hardest to work. He reminds us that the great goals of life, love above all, pass through fragility, hardships and difficulties. They must be faced with patience and trust. In our frailties, in crises, what is the strength that keeps us going? Forgiveness. Because forgiving means knowing how to start over. Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting the past but not resigning yourself to the fact that it repeats itself. It is to change the course of history. It is to raise those who have fallen. It is accepting the idea that no one is perfect and that not only me, but everyone has the right to be able to start afresh”.

Finally, the little finger, the smallest one. “You could say: I am little and the good I can do is only a drop in the ocean. But it is precisely littleness, making oneself small that attracts God. There is a keyword in this sense: service. Those who serve make themselves small. Like a tiny seed, it seems to disappear into the earth and instead bears fruit. According to Jesus, service is the power that transforms the world”.
These five tips are like fixed points, like traffic rules without which there is disorder and confusion and time and energy are wasted as anger builds. “On the other hand, even in the midst of confusion, it does us good to give our hearts and lives a fixed point, a stable direction, to start a different future, without chasing the winds of opportunism. Come out together from the pessimism that paralyses. The Democratic Republic of Congo expects a different future from your hands because the future is in your hands. Thanks to you, your country will once again become a fraternal garden, the heart of peace and freedom of Africa!”.

(C.C. – Photo: Vatican Media)

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