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Pope cites American, English, Irish authors in praising storytelling

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AFP

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 05/27/22

The Holy Father says he hopes that his words will not be final, because as Frodo, the protagonist of Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” says, “tales never end."

A book of essays has been published by Vatican Publishing House, with Pope Francis writing the afterword. The essayists are writers, artists, theologians, and journalists who came together to reflect on the theme of the Pope’s 2020 message for the World Day of Communications: storytelling.

La Tessitura del Mondo (The weaving of the world) gathers the reflections of about 44 writers in 240 pages, edited by Andrea Monda, the Director of the Osservatore Romano.

Vatican News offered a summary of the Pope’s afterword.

He recalls the words of American Author Donna Tartt, who noted that the stories we tell, re-tell, and pass on to one another are “tents under which to gather, banners to follow in battle, indestructible ropes to connect the living and the dead.”

The intertwining of these vast plots across centuries and cultures “binds us strongly to one another and to history, guiding us across generations.”

From this perspective, notes the Pope, storytelling becomes a “fabric” made of “unbreakable cords” that connect everything and everyone, and allows us to “open up to the future with feelings of trust and hope.”

In writing the concluding section of the book, the Holy Father says he hopes that his words will not be final, because as Frodo, the protagonist of Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” says, “tales never end,” and also because aspects of the book deal with a sense of openness, circularity and dialogue.

The Pope says that in stories, what matters is the “telling” but perhaps even more so the “listening.”

In this regard, the publication is “an account of a dialogue that does not end at the last page and, as a dialogue, has its heart in listening” – even silent listening. More so, a strong presence of silence is felt in the book… “word and silence, together.”

Weaving, mystery, and compassion

Pope Francis goes on to highlight three recurring themes in the publication: the telling of stories as “weaving”; mystery, concealed within the hint of silence; and, compassion.

Weaving, the Pope notes, is an aspect on which many authors focus, including some which emphasize the role of women, others highlighting the “pliability” of the weaving of the stories, while yet others dwell on the “magmatic” consistency of the stories.

The third aspect – compassion – is “in the life of the soul, the human counterpart of divine grace,” says the Pope, recalling the words of Marylinne Robinson. The Pope insists that compassion is one of the three characteristics of the style of God.

The theme of mystery, present from the very first text, is seen as “sense of limit but also as “magic” that intervenes in the moment of poetic inspiration” and also has to do with poetry. The sense of mystery also “opens to the transcendent, toward an unmistakably spiritual, religious dimension.”

On this theme, the Pope points to the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke who has compassion on the wounded man and offers him care and healing. In that story, compassion changes the lives of the two protagonists.

Political dimension

Pope Francis also describes the political dimension of the publication, recalling Alessandro Zacuri’s reflection of Jesus as a “storytelling Messiah,” unarmed but actually endowed with the powerful weapon of storytelling.

He also underlines the words of Collum McCann who sees storytelling as “one of the most powerful means we have for changing our world” and “our great democracy” that we all have access to, which transcends borders, shatters stereotypes and “gives us access to the full flowering of the human heart.”

In conclusion, the Pope highlights that the volume was written during the pandemic, in which there has emerged an urgency to return to the “oldest and most human activity” of storytelling.

This art of storytelling, the Pope insists, is building bridges that can “connect the living and the dead to guide us, across centuries and generations, to a future to be built and to be woven, together.”

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