11-13 November: Thousands of faithful arrived from around the world on St. Peter’s Square to participate in the Jubilee dedicated to the poor, to listen to the words of Pope Francis. To the event, promoted by the French Association “Brother”, adhered various associations who assist the homeless and other persons in their serious and precarious situations “I thank you for coming here to visit me, says the Pope, I beg your pardon if I have offended you sometimes with my words or for not having said the things that I meant to say.”I beg your pardon for all the times that we Christians turn back our face in front of a poor person or a poor situation. “Thanks to Christian and to Robert. And thanks to all of you, for coming here to meet us, to meet me, to pray for me. And as Cardinal [Barbarin] said, your hands on my head strengthen me to continue with my mission, in the prayer of the laying on of the hands. Many thanks. I wrote down some points of your testimonials; and then also of the signs, when you have finished.
One thing that Robert has said is that as human beings we are different from the important people of this world. We have our passions and our dreams which we try to accomplish little by little. Passion and dream: two words that can help. The passion, which at times cause suffering, can prepare for us both internal and external traps; the passion of illness ... The thousand passions. But there is also the feeling of thrill to go ahead, the good passion and this good passion makes us dream. For me, a man and a woman are very poor. But their poverty is different from yours, when this man or woman lose their ability to dream, lose their ability to accomplish a passion. Do not stop dreaming! How can a poor or a homeless person dream? I don’t know, but dream. And dream that one day you will be able to come to Rome and the dream has been realised. Dream that the world can change and this is a sowing time coming forth from your heart.
One of those who have spoken in the beginning - Etienne Billemaine – remembered one of my words which I use very often: that poverty is at the heart of the Gospel. Only the one who lacks something looks up and dreams; the one who has everything cannot dream! The people, the simple ones followed Jesus because they dreamt that He would cure them, would give them freedom and would do good to them.
And they followed Him and gave them freedom. Men and women with passions and dreams! And this is the first thing that I wanted to tell you. Teach all of us who have a house, who don’t lack food or medicine, teach us not to feel satisfied. With your dreams, teach us to dream, starting from the Gospel, where you are, from the heart of the Gospel.
A second word that has not been said, but which was present in the attitude of those who have spoken and even in yours, and which has come to my heart when Robert said in his language: [in French] «And life becomes so beautiful! ». What does it mean? That life becomes beautiful for us and we manage to find it beautiful even in the worst situations in which you live. This means dignity: this is the word that came to my mind. The ability to find beauty even in the saddest and most sorrowful things, and which only be experienced by a man or a woman who has dignity. Poor, yes, but not miserable. This is dignity. The same dignity that the Word of the Gospel has; the same dignity that adorns a man or a woman who lives with what he/she earns from work. Poor, yes, but not dominated. Not exploited!
I know that many times you must have encountered persons who wanted to exploit your poverty and who wanted to use it; but I also know that this feeling of seeing that life is beautiful, this feeling, this dignity has saved you from becoming slaves. Poor yes, but not slaves! Poverty is at the centre of the Gospel, to be lived. Slavery is not there, in the gospel to be experienced, but to be liberated!
I know that for each one of you – as Robert was saying – life, at times, many times, becomes very difficult. He said in his language: [in French] «Life has been much more difficult for many others than it has been for me ». We see that for many other people, life has been more difficult than it has been for me; we always find somebody who is poorer than us. And this too gives dignity: knowing how to be supportive, how to help each other, how to give a helping hand to those who are suffering more than me. Being able to be supportive is one of the fruits that emerges from poverty. When one is very rich, he tends to forget to be supportive, because he is used to the fact that he lacks nothing! When at times poverty leads you to suffer, it renders you supportive and makes you tend your hand to those who are living a more difficult life than yours. Thank you for the example which you are giving. Teach solidarity to the world!
I was struck by the insistence of Christian’s testimonial on the word “peace”. A phrase where he speaks of his interior peace: [in French] “I found Christ’s peace that I was seeking”. This is the first time that he is mentioning it. He then speaks of peace and joy that he experienced when he joined the choir of Nantes. At the end he made me a request and told me: [in French] «You are aware of the problem of peace in the world, I beg you to continue with your work in favour of peace ». War is the biggest poverty. It’s the poverty that destroys. And hearing this from a man who has endured material poverty and poor health is an appeal to work for peace. For us Christians, peace has started in a stable of a socially excluded family; the peace that God wants for each one of his children. And you, starting from your poverty, from your situation, you are and can be builders of peace. Wars are made between the rich, to have more, to possess more territories, more power and more money... It’s very sad when there is war among the poor, because it’s rare: due to their poverty, the poor are more inclined to be artisans of peace. Make peace! Create peace! Give examples of peace! We need peace in the world. We need peace in the Church; all the Churches need peace; all the religions need to grow in peace, because all the religions are messengers of peace, but they must grow in peace. Each one of you can help in his own religion. That peace that comes from suffering, from the heart while seeking that kind of harmony that dignity gives us.