Catholics striving to bring greater justice and hope to the world need to see the suffering people around them, stop to help and be open to continual conversion, Pope Francis said.
In a message Oct. 21 to participants in the Italian church's Social Week, Pope Francis used the image of three road signs that he said would help guide Catholics and Catholic organizations committed to promoting justice and peace, ending poverty, assisting migrants and safeguarding creation.
The first sign, he said, is a reminder to "watch the crossings."
"Too many people cross our paths while they are in despair," he said, including young people forced to migrate, the unemployed, women forced to choose between motherhood and a job, elderly people who are abandoned and businesses subject to threats by the Mafia.
"These are faces and stories that challenge us: we cannot remain indifferent," the pope said. "These brothers and sisters of ours are crucified and await resurrection."
The second sign says, "No parking," the pope said.
Members of a diocese, parish or church agency can get tired with all the challenges they face, but "God's love is never static," he said. "It impels us and forbids us to stop. It sets us in motion as believers and disciples of Jesus on our way through the streets of the world, following the example of the One who is the way and has walked our roads."
"How beautiful it would be if, in the areas most marked by pollution and degradation, Christians would not limit themselves to denouncing, but would assume responsibility for creating networks of redemption," not only by planting trees, but also seeds of justice, he said.
"A third road sign is the obligation to turn," he said. "What awaits us is a profound conversion that touches not only environmental ecology but also human ecology, the ecology of the heart."
The necessary turn, Pope Francis said, is not aimed at quick solutions, but long-lasting ones.
"The choices to be made cannot be the result of new technological discoveries alone," but must include new economic and social models that make special efforts to include everyone and to save the planet, he said.
"Here," he said, "is the planet we hope for: one where the culture of dialogue and peace will bring forth a new day, where work confers dignity on the person and safeguards creation, where culturally distant worlds converge animated by a common concern for the common good."