Pope Francis encouraged Christians to courageously venture into the metaphorical deserts of the world during a surprise visit to an Earth Day celebration in Rome Sunday.
“There are so many deserts in the cities, in the lives of people who have no future, because there are…always prejudices and fears,” the Pope said in off-the-cuff remarks.
“We must not be afraid to go to the desert and transform it into a forest, where there’s abundant life,” he continued.
Francis admitted a common temptation to avoid entanglement in the lives of others. But, he said Christians must “never, never turn away in order to not see conflict.”
He offered the example of the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Levite — supposedly a holy man — ignored a man who had been robbed and left for dead on the side of the road.
Likewise, today many people go about their days without ever noticing the people around them, the Pope lamented.
“Everyone is closed in on themselves and not smiling,” he said. “Tenderness is missing, as well as social friendship…where there isn’t social friendship, there’s always hatred and war.”
The Holy Father then challenged the crowd gathered at the Earth Day celebration to make a special effort to look at the faces of those they pass in their daily lives.
“To approach is a risk, but it is also an opportunity,” the Pope asserted.
The Earth Day celebration was organized by the Focolare movement and took place at Rome’s Villa Borghese park.
— Elise Harris (@eharris_it) April 24, 2016