For the Day:

Build Bridges

You as a person?
I am extremely grateful for my Jesuit formation which gave me the discernment dear to Saint Ignatius, the daily search to know the Lord better and to follow him ever more closely.
Devotion to St.Therese

of Lisieux?
She is one of the saints who speaks most to us about God’s grace, how God takes care of us, takes us by the hand and allows us to nimbly climb the mountain of life, if only we give ourselves to him fully, allowing ourselves to be “transported” by him. Little Thérèse understood this, in her life, that it is love, Jesus’ conciliatory love that motivates her Church. This is what she teaches me. I also like her words against the “spirit of curiosity” and gossip. She simply let herself be supported and transported by the Lord’s hand. So I often ask her to take into her hands my problems, questions whose outcome I cannot predict, a journey I need to undertake. And I ask her, whether she agrees to shoulder it and to send me a rose as a sign. I often end up receiving one…”

Saints Louis and Zélie?
Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of Thérèse of the Child Jesus, are evangelising couple, who bore witness to the beauty of faith in Christ throughout their lives – at home and outside. The Martins were known for their hospitality, they always opened their doors and their hearts to people, despite the bourgeois ethics of the time, which used “decorum” as an excuse to scorn the poor. They, together with their five daughters, dedicated time, energy and money to help those in need. They are certainly examples of holiness and of life as a couple.

With your simplicity amidst fame, what do you feel when you celebrate mass with vast crowds?
When a priest celebrates mass, he celebrates in the presence of the faithful of course, but above all, he celebrates in the presence of the Lord. The more you are exposed to great crowds, the more you need to be aware of your smallness, of the fact that you are a “useless servant”, as Jesus tells us. Every day, I ask for the grace of being a guiding sign that points in the direction of Jesus, a testimony of his merciful embrace. This is why, sometimes, when I hear people calling out: “Long live the Pope!” I invite them to say: “Long live Jesus!” When the then Cardinal Albino Luciani received applause, he reminded people: ‘Do you think the donkey Jesus rode on as he entered Jerusalem amid all the “Hosannas”, would have thought that the applause was for him?’ Well, the Pope, bishops and priests are faithful to their mission if they are aware that they are that donkey and help others to see who the real protagonist is, always conscious of the fact that while today they may be received with acclamations of “Hosana,” tomorrow they could hear people call out: “Crucify him!

Have you the urge to wander as a simple priest?
I haven’t renounced my black cassock underneath this white tunic entirely! Of course I would like to wander around, take strolls through the streets of Rome, which is such a beautiful city. I have always been a street priest. Jesus’ most important encounters and his preaching took place in the street. Of course I would love to go and grab a nice pizza with friends. But I know it is not that easy, practically impossible in fact. One thing I can never get enough of is, being with people. I meet so many people, so many more than I used to meet in Buenos Aires and this gives me great joy! When I embrace people I meet, I know it’s Jesus holding me in his arms. Yes, China too is in my heart. It is here (beating his breast). Always.

The name Francis?
The moment of the election in the Sistine Chapel the message of Saint Francis on Creation did not motivate me so much as his way of living evangelical poverty.

Your take on
‘Laudato Si’?
Our common home is polluted, it does not cease deteriorating, there is need for everyone’s commitment, and man must be protected from self-destruction. I look forward to December, when the UN conference on climate will be held in Paris, the so-called Cop21. I hope that the summit will be able to contribute concretely shared choices with long term objectives that point for the common good.

About climate Change?
Christians are realists, not catastrophists. It is precisely for this reason that we cannot hide away from one obvious fact: the current global system is unsustainable. I sincerely hope the summit will lead to concrete, shared and farsighted choices, for the common good. New development methods are needed in order to ensure a dignified life for all those women, men and children who are suffering as a result of hunger, exploitation, war and unemployment. New, shared processes are needed in order to put an end to the sweeping exploitation witnessed on our planet. Our common home is polluted, it is in decline and every one needs to put in effort. We need to protect man from self-destruction.

To do this, humanity has to renounce the idolatry of money and again place the human being, their dignity and the common good at the centre. Otherwise, our descendants will be forced to live on heaps of rubble and dirt. We need to cultivate and protect the gift that was given to us, not thoughtlessly exploit it. We need to take care of those who do not have the necessary means to live and enact structural reforms that make the world a fairer place. We must renounce attitudes of selfishness and greed so that we can all live a little better.
Refugees, Migrants?

Conflicts plague the territories of the Middle East, Syria and Iraq in particular. What we see unfolding before our very eyes, is a humanitarian tragedy that calls for us to take action. For us Christians, the words Jesus pronounced, inviting us to see his face in those of the poor and of foreigners in need, are the key. Every gesture of solidarity we show towards them is a gesture shown towards Him.
However, we cannot resign ourselves to the fact that these communities, who are currently a minority in the Middle East, are forced to leave their homes, their land and their occupations. Christians are full citizens of the countries in this region, their presence as Jesus’ followers, dates back to 2000 years ago. They are fully integrated in the cultural contexts and the history of their people. We have the human and Christian duty to take action in the face of this emergency.

We also cannot forget the causes of this emergency; we cannot pretend they do not exist. We need to ask ourselves why so many people are fleeing, what the causes of all these wars and violence are. Let us not forget about those who foment hate and violence and also those who take advantage of wars, arms traffickers for example. And let us not forget about the hypocrisy of those world powers which talk about peace but sell weapons under the counter.

Resolving the global
unrest?
In order to do this, we need to be farsighted, acting in favour of peace, taking concrete actions to resolve the structural causes of poverty. Capitalism and profit are not evil as long as they are not turned into idols. They are not evil if they remain as instruments. But when an uncontrolled ambition for money takes over and the common good and dignity of men take second or third place, if money and profit at any cost become a fetish, the object of adoration, if greed forms the bedrock of our social and economic system, then our societies are doomed. Human beings and creation as a whole must not be at the service of money: the consequences of what is happening are right before everyone’s eyes!

Promoting Dialogue?
At the level of the Vatican, “through dialogue we try to encourage the solution of the conflicts and the building of peace. We seek tirelessly peaceful and negotiating voices to resolve the crises and conflicts.” “The Holy See – he asserted – doesn’t have its own interests to defend on the international scene, but tries through all possible channels to encourage meetings, dialogues and peace processes, and respect for human rights.” Also because “on the more delicate questions, the action of the Pope and of the Holy See remains independent of the degree of liking or enthusiasm that some personalities arouse at one moment or another.”

Interreligious Harmony?
My visit to countries such as Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina was encourage examples of peaceful co-existence and collaboration between men and women of different religious faiths, so that open wounds that were left open in recent tragic conflicts might be healed. On the other hand, this is what the Gospel requests that we be builders of bridges and not of walls.

On the existence of other rational beings in the universe?
I really wouldn’t know how to answer that question: so far, scientists have excluded their existence. It is also true, however, that before the discovery of America we didn’t think it existed and yet it did. In any case, I believe we should go with what the scientists say, conscious that the Creator is infinitely greater than our knowledge. What I am certain of, is that the universe and the world in which we live is not a coincidence or the result of chaos, but the fruit of a divine intelligence, of the love of a God who loves us, created us, cares about us and never abandons us. What I am certain of, is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became flesh, died on the Cross to save man from sin and rose again, defying death.

Holy See’s contribution to the solution of international crises?
We must try to encourage dialogue as the means of resolving conflicts and building peace. We are tireless in our search for peaceful solutions and paths of negotiation to crises and conflicts. The Holy See has no interests to defend on the international stage, but acts through all channels possible to favour encounter through dialogue, peace processes and respect for human rights. I am aware that in many occasions and situations, the voice of the Church is a vox clamantis, ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert.’ I believe, however, that our faithfulness to the Gospel calls upon us to be builders of bridges, not walls. We must not exaggerate about the role of the Pope and the Holy See. What happened between the US and Cuba is a good example: we simply tried to facilitate the willingness for dialogue that was already present in the leaders of the two countries. Above all, we prayed.