On the first day of his visit to Poland for the celebration of World Youth Day, Pope Francis held a video link with Italian youth who were attending the festivities in Kraków.
Pope Francis responded to the questions of three young people, touching on topics such as the tragic railway accident in Italy, the “terrorism of gossip” that led a girl to attempt suicide, and a group of pilgrims who were interrupted from traveling because of the shooting in Munich.
The first girl who asked a question related to Pope Francis her fear of going on trains after the recent accident and asked him, “How can we return to normality? How can we defeat this fear and continue, to begin to be happy again on those trains which are our trains, our second home?”
Pope Francis explained that “Life is full of scars, life is full of scars, full of them…And every day that you take the train you will have to feel the traces, let’s say, of that injury, of that scar, of what makes you suffer.” But, Francis said, one must learn to carry “forward the good and the bad things in life” and not get overpowered by the bad. He then encouraged her to live with joy and not let fear rule her life.
The second girl related a tragic story of bullying and attempted suicide. She did not respond to the words others said about her, but after years of hurtful bullying she said, “I felt practically useless and I decided to end it all, because in my mind at that moment I didn’t count any more and I felt marginalized by everyone in our village. And so I decided to end it all, and I attempted suicide. I did not succeed and I ended up in hospital.” She asked Pope Francis, “Given that I have forgiven them in part, because I do not want to hate anyone, I have forgiven them to a point, but I also still suffer somewhat. I wanted to ask you, how can I forgive these people? How can I forgive them for everything they did to me?”
Pope Francis responded to her honest story by affirming the cruelty of what they did to her and how that cruelty is the basis of all wars. He said, “Cruelty is a human attitude that is right at the basis of all wars, all of them. The cruelty that prevents people from growing, that kills the other, that also kills the good name of another person.” He then explained how what she experienced is a form of terrorism, the “terrorism of gossip.”
Applauding her ability to forgive, the Pope said, “Forgiving is not easy…you will always carry this cruelty with you, this terrorism of ugly words…Is it possible to forgive totally? It is a grace we must ask of the Lord. We, by ourselves, cannot: we make the effort, as you have done, but forgiveness is a grace that the Lord gives you. Forgiving your enemy, forgiving those who have hurt you and those who have done you harm... But we must also do our part to forgive. I thank you for your witness.”
The final young person to ask a question was a boy who had difficulty getting to Poland with his pilgrimage group on account of the shootings in Munich. His group was forced to go back to Italy, but then was allowed to make the trip back. He asked Pope Francis, “How can we young people live and disseminate peace in this world so full of hatred?
Pope Francis responded by highlighting the two words, peace and hatred. He said, “Peace builds bridges, whereas hatred is the builder of walls. You must decide, in life: either I will make bridges or I will make walls. Walls divide and hatred grows: when there is division, hatred grows. Bridges unite, and when there is a bridge hatred can go away, because I can hear the other and speak with the other.”
He then urged the young people to make human bridges, even when those bridges collapse, saying, “You are there, with you hands, make bridges, all of you!…This is the plan for life: make bridges, human bridges.”