Pope's Message to the Rimini Meeting For Friendship Among Peoples

"In the desert, one turns to discover the value of what is essential to live; so in the contemporary world there are innumerable signs, often manifested in an implicit or negative way, of thirst for God, of the ultimate meaning of life"

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Below is a translation of the message Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin sent Saturday afternoon on behalf of Pope Francis for the occasion of the 35th Edition of the Meeting for Friendship among Peoples, Aug. 24-28, in Rimini, Italy, with the theme “Towards the Fringes of the World and of Existence: Fate Has Not Left Man Alone.”  It was sent to Bishop Francesco Lambiasi of Rimini.

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Most Reverend Excellency,

On the occasion of the 35th Meeting for Friendship among Peoples, I am happy to send you, the organizers, the volunteers and all those who will participate, the cordial greeting and blessing of His Holiness Pope Francis, along with my personal good wishes for this important initiative.

The subject chosen for this year – “Towards the Fringes of the World and of Existence” –elicits the constant solicitude of the Holy Father. Since his episcopate at Buenos Aires, he is aware that the “fringes” are not only places, but also and above all persons, as he said in his intervention during the general congregations before the conclave: “the Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the fringes, not only the geographic, but also the existential: those of the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, those of ignorance and the absence of faith, those of thought, those of all kinds of misery” (March 9, 2013).

Therefore, Pope Francis thanks the leaders of the Meeting for having accepted and spread his invitation to walk in this perspective. An “outgoing” Church is the only possible one according to the Gospel; it is demonstrated by the life of Jesus, who went from village to village proclaiming the Kingdom of God and sent his disciples before him. It was for this that the Father sent him into the world.

The second part of the Meeting’s theme is that "Fate Has Not Left Man Alone:" an expression of the Servant of God Luigi Giussani, who reminds us that the Lord has not abandoned us to ourselves, He has not forgotten us. In ancient times, He chose a man, Abraham, and pointed him on the way towards the land He had promised him. And, in the fullness of time, He chose a young woman, the Virgin Mary, to become flesh and to come to dwell in our midst. Nazareth was truly an insignificant village, a “fringe” on the political and religious plane; but God looked precisely there, to bring His plan of mercy and fidelity to fulfillment.

A Christian is not afraid of being decentralized, of going to the fringes, because his center is in Jesus Christ. He frees us from fear; in His company, we can go forward safely anywhere, also in the dark moments of life, knowing that, wherever we go, the Lord always precedes us with His grace, and our joy is to share with others the Good News that He is with us. After fulfilling a mission, Jesus’ disciples returned enthusiastic because of the success obtained. However, Jesus said to them: “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20-21). It is not for us to save the world, it is God alone who saves it.

The men and women of our time run the great risk of living an individualistic sadness, isolated even in the midst of a quantity of consumer goods, of which, however, so many are excluded. Often styles of life prevail that induce to place one’s hope in economic security or in power or in purely earthly success. Christians also run this risk. “It is evident – states the Holy Father – that in some places a spiritual “desertification” has been produced, fruit of the plan of societies that wish to construct themselves without God” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelium Gaudium, 86). However, this must not discourage us, as Benedict XVI reminded us on opening the Year of Faith: “In the desert, one turns to discover the value of what is essential to live; so in the contemporary world there are innumerable signs, often manifested in an implicit or negative way, of thirst for God, of the ultimate meaning of life. Necessary above all in the desert are persons of faith who, with their very life indicate the way to the Promised Land and thus keep hope alive” (Homily in the Holy Mass of the Opening of the Year of Faith, October 11, 2012).

Pope Francis invites us to collaborate, also with the Meeting for Friendship among Peoples, to this essential return, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Christians have the duty to proclaim it without excluding anyone, not as one who imposes a new obligation, but rather as one who shares a joy, points out a beautiful horizon, offers a desirable banquet. The Church does not grow by proselytism but ‘by attraction’” (Evangelii Gaudium, 14), that is, “through a personal witness, a telling, a gesture, or a way that the Holy Spirit Himself can arouse in a concrete circumstance” (Ibid., 128).

The Holy Father points out to the leaders and participants of the Meeting two particular cares.

First of all, he invites never to lose contact with reality but, rather, to be lovers of reality. This is also part of Christian witness: in the presence of a dominant culture which puts appearance in the first place, what is superficial and provisional, the challenge is to choose and to love the reality. Don Giussani left this in legacy as a program of life, when he said: “The only condition to be always and truly religious is to live the real without preclusions, that is, without denying or forgetting anything. In fact it would not be human, that is reasonable, to consider an experience limited to its surface, to the crest of the wave, without going down to the depth of its emotion” (The Religious Sense, p. 150).

Moreover, he invites us to always fix one’s eyes on what is essential. The most serious problems arise, in fact, when the Christian message is identified with secondary aspects that do not express the heart of the proclamation. In a world in which, after two thousand years Jesus has become again an unknown in so many countries, also in the West, “it is appropriate to be realistic and not to take for granted that our interlocutors know the complete background of what we say or that they can connect our discourse with the essential nucleus of the Gospel that confers meaning, beauty and attraction to it” (Evangelii Gaudium, 34).

Therefore, a world in such rapid transformation asks Christians to be ready to seek forms and ways to communicate, with a comprehensible language, the perennial novelty of Christianity. Also in this one must be realistic. “Many times it is better to slow down one’s pace, put anxiety aside, and look into eyes and listen, or give up urgencies to accompany one who has stayed on the side of the street” (Ibid., 46).

His Holiness offers these reflections as a contribution to the week of the Meeting, to all those taking part in it, in particular, to the leaders, the organizers and to the reporters who reach the fringes of the world and of existence, to witness that God the Father does not leave His children alone. The Pope hopes that many will be able to relive the experience of Jesus’ first disciples who, meeting Him on the shore of the Jordan, heard Him ask them: “What are you looking for?” May this question of Jesus always accompany the path of those who visit the Meeting for Friendship among Peoples.

While asking to pray for him and for his ministry, Pope Francis invokes the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary and sends his heartfelt Apostolic Blessing to Your Excellency and to the Meeting’s entire community.

Assuring Your Excellency of my personal best wishes, I take advantage of the circumstance to confirm my special regards.

From Your Most Reverend Excellency

Pietro Cardinal Parolin

To His Most Reverend Excellency

Monsignor Francesco Lambiasi

Bishop of Rimini

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]