Pontiff responds to emotional testimonies and challenging questions
On Friday night, September 4, ABC’s “20/20” aired a virtual audience Pope Francis held with Americans, in anticipation of his visit later this month to the United States. The video conference was recorded on Aug. 31 and moderated by journalist David Muir. Participants gave emotional testimonies and asked the pontiff questions. Available in English and Spanish on line, here are some excerpts from the conference:
Responding to Valery Herrera, a senior at the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School who has struggled with an autoimmune disease and bullying and asked Francis, “What are your hopes for us, the youth? What do you hope we do and be?,” Francis responded:
What I hope for from youth is for you all not to walk alone in life…I hope for many more things. That you dare to walk with love and tenderness for others […] Life is very difficult. It’s difficult to walk alone. You get lost… Always walk hand-in-hand with someone who loves you, someone who gives you tenderness […] To walk hand in hand with Jesus, to walk hand in hand with the Virgin, this gives security. It’s the first thing I hope for the youth: that you be accompanied but with good companions, that is, that you walk in good company […] Each youth has to look in life for someone that helps them along the way, it can be their father, mother, a relative, a friend, a grandfather or grandmother – grandparents give such good advice – a teacher, someone that helps you to face things in life.
Second: I hope the youth walk with courage… Do you know how sad it is to see a youth that is not brave? A sad youth, a youth with the face of grief, a youth without joy. Courage gives you joy, and joy gives you hope which is a gift from God, obviously… Don’t be afraid of difficulties! Be prudent, be careful but don’t be afraid. You have the strength to overcome. Don’t be scared. Don’t stop… Always move forward with courage and with hope. And God, if you ask him, will give you hope.
Responding to the testimony of a single mother named Rosemary and her 11 year old daughter, Alyssa Farfan, who lived in a homeless shelter, and are moving into their first apartment, the pope said:
… I know that it’s not easy to be a single mother, I know that people can sometimes look at you badly, but I tell you one thing, you’re a brave woman because you were able to bring two daughters into the world. You could have killed them in the womb, and you respected life, respected the life that you had inside of yours, and for this God is going to reward you, and is rewarding you. Don’t be ashamed, go forward with your head held high…
Responding to Ricardo Ortiz, 19, who emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico on a tourist visa at 4 years old and had to take care of his family when his father became unable to work who asked the pope: “With all the problems there are in the world: poverty, our educational system, immigration…what do you think is the solution to all of these problems?” Francis responded:
Obviously listening to your story I can say that life has made you a father early because from very young you had to maintain your family during your father’s illness. But you knew how to do it because you had a father with the courage to start you on this path of work and struggle… Always look to the figure of Jesus. You ask me how. Looking at the figure of Jesus we take another step. God sometimes speaks to us with words, as in history, with situations. And God at times, many times, speaks to us with his silence. When I see – what you ask me – to number of people who are starving, which doesn’t need to grow, who don’t have good health, that a child dies, who have no education, the number of people who don’t have a house, the number of people who today, we are seeing them, migrate from their country seeking a better future and they die, so many die along the way, I look to Jesus on the Cross and discover the silence of God. The first silence of God is on the Cross of Jesus. The greatest injustice history and God was silent….what you ask me is only understood in the silence of God, and the silence of God is only understood by looking at the Cross.
What to do? The world has to be more aware that the exploitation of each other is not a path. All of us are created for social friendship. All of us have responsibility for everyone. No one can say: ‘my responsibility reaches here.’ We are all responsible for everyone, and to help ourselves in the way that each one can. Social friendship, this is what God created us for… Don’t forget this, social friendship against the answer of the world which is social enmity: “Fix yourself and may others fix themselves alone.” This is not the plan of God.
The pope also asked to speak to a nun he spotted in the audience named Sister Norma and said this to her:
Sister, through you I want to thank all religious sisters of the United States. The work that the religious sisters have done and do in the United States is great. I congratulate you. Be courageous. Move forward, always on the front line. And I tell you one thing more – is ok for the Pope to say this? I don’t know – I love you all very much!
You can read the manuscript of the video conference here.