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Pope tells high schoolers to guard against cell phone addiction

Tiziana FABI I AFP
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Cell phones are great, he says, but life is for "communication" not for mere "contacts."

Pope Francis warned a group of high school students about cell phone addiction, telling them that while cell phones are a great “advance” and a great “help,” if someone gets addicted, they lose their freedom.

“Free yourself from dependence on your mobile phone, please!” he exclaimed. “You have certainly heard of the drama of addiction. … This one is very subtle. … The mobile phone is a great help, it is a great advance … But when you become a slave to your mobile phone, you lose your freedom. The telephone is for communication … it is very good to communicate between ourselves. But be careful, as there is the danger that, when the telephone is a drug, communication is reduced to simple ‘contacts.’ But life is not for ‘contacting’, it is for communicating!”

Pope Francis was speaking with students of the Visconti High School, which continues the history of the celebrated Roman College and is located in the building constructed at the behest of St. Ignatius of Loyola and inaugurated by Pope Gregory XIII in 1583.

Illustrious alumni include Eugenio Pacelli (who went on to become Pope Pius XII) and the Nobel laureate in economics, Franco Modigliani. One of its most famous alumni is Matteo Ricci, the Jesuit who, as the Holy Father recalled, was “one of the first to establish a bridge of friendship between China and the West, implementing a still-valid model of inculturation of the Christian message in the Chinese world.”

In the school building there is also the monumental Church of St. Ignatius, where the remains of St. Aloysius Gonzaga are conserved. This year is the Jubilee of the 450th anniversary of his birth, the occasion for which the Holy Father met the students and professors of the Visconti School.

The Holy Father referred to the saint, who is the patron of youth, and also an alumnus of the same school. He highlighted his ability to “make important decisions for his life, without getting carried away by careerism and the god of money. There is a great need for young people who know how to act like this,” the pope said, “putting the common good before personal interests. To achieve this, it is necessary to take care of one’s inner life, through study, research, educational dialogue, prayer and listening to the conscience; and all this presupposes the capacity to forge spaces of silence … This applies to everyone, to those who believe and those who do not believe. Only in inner silence can one grasp and distinguish the voice of conscience from the voices of selfishness and hedonism.”

Another distinctive feature of St. Aloysius is his “capacity to love with a pure and free heart. Only those who love come to know God. In emotional life there are essentially two elements: modesty and fidelity. … The sense of modesty refers to a vigilant conscience that defends the dignity of the person and authentic love, precisely so as not to trivialize the language of the body. Faithfulness, then, along with respect for the other, is an indispensable dimension of every true relationship of love, since one cannot play with feelings. But loving is not just an expression of the emotional bond of a couple or of a strong, beautiful and fraternal friendship. A concrete form of love is also given by commitment in solidarity towards others, especially the poorest. … In this too St. Aloysius is a model, as he died consumed by service to plague sufferers; that is, people who were on the margins of society an discarded by everyone else.”

Finally, before giving his blessing, the Holy Father, who improvised most of his address, spoke about the suffering caused by bullying, and invited those present to “fight against this aggressiveness, which is truly a seed of war.”

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