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Pope: We must let children play! To play is to dream …

POPE FRANCIS,CHILDREN,CROWD
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Francis says play is a form of “dreaming while awake” and dreams are at the heart of what the world needs.

When Pope Francis meets with the masses, especially with young people, he often tells us to dream.

“Do not be afraid to dream of a more just world,” he told a pilgrim group in 2014.

“You can’t have a family without dreams,” he said in Manila in 2015. “Once a family loses the ability to dream, children do not grow, love does not grow, life shrivels up and dies. … Dreaming is very important. Especially dreaming in families. Do not lose this ability to dream!”

He’s mentioned this dreaming often enough that we could say it’s a Pope Francis hallmark. And he’s just repeated the invitation again, this time to Palestinian and Israeli youth who were gathered together earlier this week for a conference put on by Scholas Occurentes, a now international pro-education group the future pope established when he was still an archbishop in Argentina.

The conference was held in Jerusalem, and focused on the theme “Between the University and the School, building peace through the culture of encounter.” It gathered youth from Israel and Palestine, as well as from other places around the globe.

In a video message to the young people, the Holy Father expanded on his familiar invitation to dream.

“Education opens us to the unknown, and brings us to that place in which the waters have not yet been parted. Free of prejudice. That is to say, free of previous judgments that hold us back, so that, from there, we can dream and seek new paths. This is why, as adults, we cannot take away from our children and young people the capacity to dream, nor to play, which in a certain way is a form of dreaming while awake. If we don’t allow children to play, it is because we do not know how to play, and if we do not know how to play, then we do not understand gratitude, nor gratuity, nor creativity.”

When the pope speaks about dreaming, he’s talking about more than a casual wish for some future, frivolous reality. He’s talking about something akin to hope — something that creates and engenders creativity, something that empowers the present, even in a situation as sunk in conflict as the Holy Land.

We are breathing the same air, he told the youth gathered in Jerusalem, stepping on the same ground. We all come with our own stories. But “you had the courage to look each other in the eyes, to look at each other unguardedly, and that is indispensable for an encounter to take place. In the unguardedness of your gaze, there aren’t any answers; there is openness. Openness to everything that is other, that is not me. Looking each other in the eye without pretense or prejudice, we become receptive to life.”

This openness, he said — openness to life and to others, to the one I have beside me — brings about an encounter, a discovery of meaning.

“We all have meaning. We all have meaning in life. None of us is a ‘no.’ We all are a ‘yes,’” he said.

Pope Francis said that we must “listen to the young and create a context of hope so that those dreams can grow and be shared.”

Because, he said — and how relevant this is in Jerusalem — a shared dream opens “the possibility of creating a new way of living.”

Reiterating another of his favorite exhortations, the pope said that with all this we can create a “culture of encounter,” where we are united as persons, valuing diversity in order to create not uniformity, but harmony.

“How much this atomized world needs it!,” he said, lamenting the fear in the world that leads to building walls “that end up making real our worst nightmare: to live as enemies.”

“What a great need this world has of going out to meet others!”

~

Here is a translation of the full text of the video message:

In this moment, young people and adults of Israel, Palestine and other parts of the world, of different nationalities, creeds and realities, all of us breathe the same air, we step upon the same ground, our common home.

Your stories are many — each one has their own. There are as many stories as there are people, but life is one.

That’s why I want to celebrate these days you’ve lived in Jerusalem, because you yourselves, from your differences, achieved unity. No one taught you this. You lived it.

You had the courage to look each other in the eyes, to look at each other unguardedly, and that is indispensable for an encounter to take place. In the unguardedness of your gaze, there aren’t any answers; there is openness. Openness to everything that is other, that is not me.  Looking each other in the eye without pretense or prejudice, we become receptive to life.

Life doesn’t pass us by. It intersects us and moves us and this is passion. Once one is open to life and to others, to the one I have beside me, an encounter happens, and this encounter gives meaning.

We all have meaning. We all have meaning in life. None of us is a “no.” We all are a “yes.”

We are all a “yes,” and that is why, when we find meaning, it is as if our soul were expanding. And we need to put this meaning into words. We need to give it a shape to contain it; to express, in some way, what has happened to us. And that is creation.

In addition, when we realize that life has meaning and that this meaning overflows beyond us, we need to celebrate it. We need a festivity, as a human expression of the celebration of meaning.

It is then that we find the deepest feeling possible—a feeling that exists in us due to and in spite of everything, due to everything and in spite of everything. This feeling is gratitude.

Scholas grasps that this is what education is about. Education opens us to the unknown, and brings us to that place in which the waters have not yet been parted. Free of prejudice. That is to say, free of previous judgments that hold us back, so that, from there, we can dream and seek new paths.

This is why, as adults, we cannot take away from our children and young people the capacity to dream, nor to play, which in a certain way is a form of dreaming while awake. If we don’t allow children to play, it is because we do not know how to play, and if we do not know how to play, then we do not understand gratitude, nor gratuity, nor creativity.

This encounter has taught us that we have an obligation to listen to the young and create a context of hope so that those dreams can grow and be shared.  When a dream is shared, it becomes the utopia of a whole people: the possibility of creating a new way of living. Our utopia, that of all those who in some way are part of Scholas, is to create through this education a culture of encounter.

We can unite as persons, valuing the diversity of cultures, to achieve not unity, but harmony. How much this atomized world needs it! This world which fears whoever is different, which, based not this fear, sometimes builds walls that end up making real our worst nightmare: to live as enemies. What a great need this world has of going out to meet others!

This is why I thank you today—adults, the academic faculty and staff of Hebrew University and of so many universities throughout whole world who are present there—for not closing in on yourselves, and for placing your valuable knowledge at the service of listening.

And I thank all the young people of Israel and Palestine, and the guests from other countries around the world, for having the courage to dream, to search for meaning, to create, to thank, to celebrate, and to put your minds, hands and hearts to work to make a culture of encounter a reality. Thank you very much.

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