Pope Francis gives the homily at Mass for the Solemnity of All Souls in Rome's Verano cemetery, Nov. 1, 2014. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Vatican City, May 6, 2017 / 09:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a lengthy, off-the-cuff Q&A session with students, Pope Francis said a “culture of destruction” has spread throughout the world, but there is still good in the world, although it often go unnoticed. There are many good things and good people in the world, “but the world is at war,” the Pope said May 6. “The world is at war…this bomb falls here, on a hospital, on a school; there are sick people, children, but it doesn’t matter. They bomb.”

Francis then said he is “ashamed of the name of a bomb: ‘the mother of all bombs’.” The name refers to a massive bomb dropped by the U.S. on ISIS targets in Afghanistan April 13. Nicknamed “the mother of all bombs,” it is one of the United States’ largest non-nuclear bombs, and prior to April had never been used as a weapon. “A mother gives life, and this destroys!” Pope Francis said, explaining that when the word “mother” is used in this context, he asks himself “what can be happening? The answer is it’s true, we are at war.”

Pope Francis spoke during a May 6 audience with students of the National Coordination of Local Governments for peace and human rights. In the course of the meeting, the Pope took questions from five people, three men and two women, who asked about modern world crisis and the response – or lack thereof – to these important topics.  The first question was posed by a young woman named Maria, who asked “what is happening?” in the world given the many modern crisis, and “why is it so hard to learn how to love?”

In his response, Francis explained that when God created the world, he made it “to grow, to go forward,” but at a certain point, “a culture of destruction began.” “This culture of destruction started from the beginning, from the jealously of Cain for his brother Abel...he destroyed him, he killed him,” the Pope said, adding that even today “there is a lot of cruelty.” History has seen various periods of violence and destruction, he said, but today “we are living a new massacre” of men, women and children who suffer and die due to war and migration, or who are exploited for personal interests.  While in the past we only saw glimpses of this destruction in photos or newspapers, today we see it live on TV, he said, but noted that somehow, it’s only the negative things that make the news. 

“We see these things on TV, because the good things that there are aren’t ‘news’,” he said, explaining that often media outlets go for stories that “have a bit of flavor,” but “always on this destruction, because it sells.”  On the contrary, “God created us to build, to give life, to go forward, to make community, to live in peace,” he said, telling the students that while he doesn’t want to “tranquilize” them to the problems of the world, “good things are happening” too. 

“There are many people who give their lives for others, who spend time with others, who seek to do good for others. You don’t see this,” he said, and recalled meeting an 84-year-old nun during his visit to the Central African Republic in 2016 who had been serving as a missionary there since she was 24.  “No one knows this, you don’t see it on TV. But there are people who give their lives for others, to help against this massacre of destruction,” he said. 

But at the same time that we recognize the good, we must also “denounce these terrible things, so that the world goes forward on the path of making visible the people who right now are hidden.”

The second question was posed by a young man named Michele, who asked why authorities in countries at war seem eager to do something, but in reality do nothing, and what can be done to intervene. 

Pope Francis responded to Michele’s query saying the question is a “strong” one, and that the answer lay in the fact that God created man and woman to be the center of creation, but instead, “the god of money” has become the focal point.  Then, “you can’t do anything because there are affairs,” beginning with the trafficking of arms, he said, returning to a point he has often spoken out against. 

“If we want peace, why do we make arms, but many more than are necessary to defend ourselves?” he asked, noting that there are countries who sell weapons to both opposing sides in a war to keep their profits up. He also pointed to the drug trade, “which destroys the minds of youth,” and the various ways in which people are exploited, primarily through work. There are children who work from age 7 with no education, and people who are are paid very little for a day’s labor, he said. 

Francis told the students that while it’s easy to be dismissive or think these things only happen in other, faraway countries, this isn’t true, because it happens “here, here in Europe, here in Italy!” He pointed to the frequent cases in which people are paid “in black,” meaning paid under the table with no official contract, or who are given brief contracts for 8-10 months at a time, but nothing permanent.  “This is called destruction. This we Catholics call a mortal sin, exploitation,” the Pope said, and encouraged the youth to rise to the challenge and “fight against this. Work hard. Help others. Don’t be afraid.”

In his response to the third question, posed by a youth named Luca who asked how the switch from violence to non-violence can be made, Francis pointed to the virtue of “meekness.” Violence is everywhere, and not just in wars, he said, noting that words can also harm people, and can even lead some to kill. 

Using a phrase he has on several previous occasions, the Pope said the “terrorism of gossip” is the most dangerous in this regard, and told the youth that “if you are tempted to say something about someone, to gossip about another, bite your tongue.” This also goes for insults, which at times seem to be a first impulse toward someone, he said. “It’s enough to go on the street in rush hour, when traffic is full and a motorbike come here, or a car comes from there, and immediately, instead of saying sorry,” expletives come out. 

The remedy for this, he said, is meekness, which “doesn’t mean to be stupid, it means to act in peace, with tranquility, to say things in a way that doesn’t hurt.” “We need to re-learn this, to find it again in our lives. Always with meekness, always with that meek attitude that is opposite of violence.”

The answer also bled into another question asked by Aluizio, a teacher who asked the Pope what can be done to educate youth in becoming artisans of peace.  Francis said the answer is much the same as the previous, and consists of teaching youth how to be meek and listen to others, but also fostering continuity between the different levels of society.  “We must remake the educative pact between the family, society, school, everyone at the service of youth so that they grow well. But everyone united,” he said, because otherwise, “the child will grow poorly.”

The final question was posed by a young woman named Costanza, who asked about his encyclical “Laudato Si,” and what can be done to meet the challenges of caring for creation, especially when world leaders don’t seem to be as committed as they say in achieving the latest set of Sustainable Development Goals. 

Pope Francis told Costanza that he appreciated her question, because “we are destroying the most precious gift that God gave us: creation.” Consumerism is the primary cause of this destruction, he said, but also pointed to litter, the exploitation of resources and the use of certain pesticides or chemicals used to modify food products.  “This is to mistreat creation,” he said, stressing that we must never resign to leaving our planet in ruin, but must move forward in caring for it as God’s gift. 

Francis closed by leading the youth in praying a Hail Mary before asking for prayers and telling them to “go forward with courage.”