Vatican City, 1 March 2014 (VIS) – During his audience with the participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, which took place yesterday, 28 February, Pope Francis gave an off the cuff address to those present, a summary of which is given below.
“The transmission of faith, and educational emergency. … If there is an educational emergency in relation to the transmission of faith, it is how to approach the theme of catechesis for the young from the perspective of fundamental theology. That is, the issue of the anthropological assumptions that affect the transmission of faith nowadays, and that create this educational emergency for the young people of Latin America”.
“The first issue regarding education is that to educate involves three dimensions: the transmission of knowledge, habits and a sense of values – these three aspects together. To transmit faith, it is necessary to create the habit of a certain type of conduct. … If we want to transmit only the content of faith, then it will be something superficial or ideological, without roots. … It is important to transmit to the young … the good management of utopia. In Latin America, we have had experience of a not entirely balanced management of utopian ideals which in some places, although not all, and at certain moments, has overwhelmed us. At least in the case of Argentina, we can say that many young people in Catholic Action, as a result of a poor education in managing the concept of utopia, ended up participating in guerilla conflicts in the 1970s. … To know how to guide and help the growth of youthful utopia is a wealth. A youth without utopia ages prematurely, is old before his time. How can we ensure that this desire typical of youth, this desire for utopia, leads to an encounter with Jesus Christ? It is a path we need to take”.
“Youthful utopia grows well when it is accompanied by memory and discernment. Utopia looks to the future, memory looks to the past, and the present is discerned. Young people need to receive memory and plant or root their utopia in this memory. … This brings us to my insistence … on the encounter between the elderly and the young. … Some bishops from various countries in crisis, where there are high levels of unemployment among the young, have told me that part of the solution for the young rests in the fact that they now keep their grandparents company. They have started to meet with their grandparents again, their grandparents are pensioners and so they come out of their rest homes and return to their families, bringing with them their memory; this encounter. … This phenomenon of the encounter between children and young people and their grandparents has preserved faith in the countries of the East, during the entire Communist era, because their parents could not go to Church. ...The encounter between children and young people and their grandparents is crucial for receiving the memory of a people and discernment of the present: to be teachers of discernment, spiritual advisers. And here we see the importance, for the transmission of faith to the young, of the “face to face” apostolate. Discernment of the present cannot be done without a good confessor, a good spiritual guide who has the patience to spend hours and hours listening to the young”.
“As a educational emergency, in this transmission of faith and also of culture, the problem is our throwaway culture. Nowadays, on account of the economic system that has taken root in the world, which has at its centre the god of money and not the human person, everything is ordered according to this logic, and anything that does not fit within this order is discarded. Children are discarded, when their existence is troublesome or unwanted. The Spanish bishops recently spoke to me about the number of abortions, and I was left speechless. … In some Latin American countries there is hidden euthanasia … because the social authorities will pay only up to a certain point, after which the elderly have to get by as best they can”.
“Nowadays, how inconvenient it is to this worldwide system to consider the number of young people to whom it is necessary to provide work … there is a high percentage of unemployed among the young. We are creating a generation of young people who do not have the experience of dignity. The problem is not that they have nothing to eat – their grandparents provide for them, or their parishes, or the welfare state. … They have bread to eat, but they do not have the dignity of earning bread and bringing it home to the table”.
“Within this throwaway culture, we see young people who need us more than ever – not only for that utopia they have, because a young person without work has an anaesthetised sense of utopia, or is at the point of losing it – not only for this, but also for the urgency of transmitting faith to a youth that has itself now too become waste material. And drugs enter into this waste material. It is not a question of vice, there are many forms of addiction. As in all periods of change, there are strange phenomena including the proliferation of addictions; ludomania, or compulsive gambling, for instance, has reached extremely high levels. But drugs are an instrument of death among the young”.
“We are discarding our young. What does the future hold? An obligation: the 'traditio fe' is also 'traditio spei', and we must achieve this. The final question I wish to put to you is this: when utopia falls to disenchantment, what can we do? The utopia of today's enthusiastic youth is slipping away towards disenchantment. Disenchanted youth, to whom we must give faith and hope”.