After becoming the first Pope to author a children's book earlier this year, Pope Francis will soon come out with another, based on his responses to questions posed by youth through a new online platform.
Speaking at the May 27-29 World Encounter of the Directors of Scholas Occurrentes, Italian journalist and author Tiziana Lupi explained the idea behind the new book, which she said seeks to “open a door” to dialogue with youth.
Scholas was founded by Pope Francis in August 2013 as an initiative to encourage social integration and the culture of encounter through technology, arts and sports. The foundation has organized several events at the Vatican, including two Google hangout sessions with Pope Francis, as well as 2014’s interreligious Match for Peace.
Both Richard Gere and George Clooney were present for the May 29 meeting between the Pope and participants in the encounter.
Lupi, who works with Italian editorial Mondadori, said May 29 that the publication has joined efforts with Scholas in creating a new technological platform “which allows all youth from all over the world, all social classes, all religious to ask Pope Francis a question without filters.”
While it’s generally journalists who ask the questions, this time it will be the youth who open their hearts to the Pope through the new webpage “Ask Pope Francis,” which is already up and running.
Since there will obviously be too many questions to include all of them in the book, only certain questions, which come more authentically from the heart, will be selected.
“We’ll select the ones that seem more from the heart and which allow Pope Francis to touch on topics he hasn’t been able to until today,” Lupi said, adding that the book will likely be released sometime in October or November.
Pope Francis met with participants in the gathering May 29, which also marked the presentation of the platform the new book project, called “Chiedete” in Italian. In addition to the announcement of the new book, several other projects and initiatives were presented to the Pope.
After hearing the tearful testimony of a teen girl from Mexico who was bullied after coming to the United States following her parents’ separation, the Pope was told that a new anti-bullying campaign was being launched by Scholas with the hashtag “#nosotrossomosunicos,” meaning “#weareunique.”
Following the girl’s testimony, 12 young, influential Youtube users from around the world asked the Pope how to build a better, more diverse and integrated world.
In his response, Francis said that each person must be recognized for their own personal identity, explaining that “there is no future” if a person lacks a clear identity.
He spoke of the importance of the “language of gestures” in making someone feel included. These gestures, he said, can be “pat, a smile, a smile that gives hope, looking into one’s eyes. Gestures of approval or patience, tolerance.”
If bullying is ever going to stop, we must leave aggressions behind, he said, adding that “bullying is an aggression that hides a profound cruelty.”
“The world is cruel. Wars are monuments of cruelty,” he said, and pulled out from his pocket graphic pictures sent to him by a nun living in an African country torn apart by civil war.
Showing the pictures to the participants, Francis lamented how they depicted grotesque images such as a child with their throat cut and another “butchered in the head.”
“If this happens, how will bullying not? It’s the same cruelty,” he said, explaining that if we want to build a better world, we must first eliminate “all forms of cruelty. War is a form of cruelty.”
Instead of aggression, we must gain the ability to listen to one another and to dialogue, rather than argue, he said, telling attendees “don’t be afraid of dialogue,” because with dialogue “everyone wins, no one loses.”
Pope Francis also stressed the importance of leaving one’s pride and superiority behind, because these attitudes “always end badly.”
The world today “needs to lower the level of aggression, it needs tenderness, it needs to listen, it needs to walk together,” he said, and, pointing to the photos, said added that “this is happening today because all these attitudes are lacking.”
Francis was then presented with several other initiatives before receiving a signed copy of all the commitments made by participants during the three-day gathering.
Mention of the second interreligious Match for Peace, to be played June 10 in Rome’s Olympic Stadium and which draws together major soccer stars from around the world, was also mentioned.
The Pope closed the gathering by offering his gratitude to participants for their prayers and work, and praying for youth around the world.