In his March 31 interview with Belgian communications students, Pope Francis gave a message to both believers and non-believers, stating that if one genuinely seeks beauty, they will find a path to the Lord. “When man finds himself, he seeks God. Maybe he is unable to find him, but walks on a path of honesty, seeking truth, on a path of goodness and a path of beauty,” the pontiff said. “For me, a young person who loves truth and seeks it, loves goodness and is good, is a good person, and seeks and loves beauty, is on the good path and will surely find God!” Originally published April 4 on the Belgium website deredactie.be., the interview was given at the Vatican to 3 out of a group of 12 Flemish youth that formed during World Youth Day in Rio with the desire to communicate to other young people of Flanders what they had done there, and who were accompanied by the Bishop of Ghent, Lucas Van Looy. Pope Francis’ words on beauty and goodness came as an answer to one young man’s question as to whether or not man is capable of caring for himself and the world, and as to where God is in the midst of a culture that discards even its own people. “I ask myself two questions about this question: Where is God and where is man? It’s the first question that, in the Gospel account God poses to man, ‘Adam, where are you?’” the Pope responded, stating that “I ask myself now: ‘You, man of the 21st century, where are you?’” Asking this question, the pontiff continued, also leads him to ask a second question: “You, God, where are you?” explaining that when man truly finds himself, he also finds the Lord. Revealing his belief that a person will eventually find the Lord if they authentically search for truth and walk on the path of goodness, the Pope insisted that “Sooner or later, he will find him!” “But the path is long and some people do not find it, in life. They don’t find it in a conscious way,” he continued, “but they are so true and honest with themselves, so good and so loving of beauty that in the end they have a very mature personality, capable of an encounter with God, which is always a grace.” When asked if he had a specific message to send to youth in their same situations, as believers and non-believers, the Pope replied that “one must seek, in a way of speaking, authenticity. And for me, authenticity is this: I am speaking with my brothers.” Highlighting how “We are all brothers. Believers, non-believers, or those of one religious confession or another, Jews, Muslims…we are all brothers,” the Roman pontiff observed that we live in a disposable society, and emphasized the need to recall how man is at the center of creation. Speaking specifically of how the elderly and the youth are being thrown out, the Pope drew attention to the need to develop concrete solutions, “because in the concreteness of life you move forward.” “I believe that youth, in this moment, must take the tempo and move ahead,” he said, “Be courageous! This gives me hope.” Speaking of his emphasis on care of the poor, the Bishop of Rome responded to a question about why this is so important for him, stating that “this is the heart of the Gospel.” “Jesus says of himself, ‘I came to announce to the poor, freedom, health, the grace of God…’ To the poor. Those who need salvation, that need to be welcomed in society,” the pontiff continued, adding that “if you read the Gospel, you see that Jesus had a certain preference for the marginalized.” Recalling how he heard that a few months ago that someone referred to the attention he gives to the poor, saying “This Pope is a communist,” Pope Francis emphasized that “No! This is a banner of the Gospel, not of Communism: of the Gospel!” “But poverty without ideology” he clarified, noting how “the problem is that then this attitude toward the poor sometimes, in history, has been idealized,” and adding that “No, it is not like that: ideology is another thing. It is like this in the Gospel: it is simple, very simple.” During the interview Pope Francis also spoke of his own personal fears and lessons he has learned from his mistakes, as well as how he prays, and the reasons why he does it. “I pray, because I need to,” he explained, adding “I pray for people, when I meet people that strike me because they are sick or have problems, or there are problems” such as war and hunger. “Often I take the Bible, I read it a bit, then I leave it and I let myself be looked at by the Lord. That is the most common idea in my prayer. I allow myself to be looked at by Him. And I feel - but it isn’t sentimentalism - I feel deeply the things that the Lord tells me.” Sometimes, noted the pontiff, the Lord “doesn’t speak…nothing, empty, empty, empty…but patiently I am there, and I pray this way…I am seated, I pray seated, because it hurts me to kneel, and sometimes I fall asleep in prayer…It is also a way of praying, as a son with the Father, and this is important.” Last among the questions asked was if Pope Francis himself had a question for the students, to which he responded that he did, but that his question was “not original” because he took if from the Gospel. “Where is your treasure? This is the question. Where does your heart rest? On what treasure does your heart rest? Because there where your treasure is will be your life.” “The heart is attached to the treasure, to a treasure that all of us have: power, money, pride, so many…or goodness, beauty, the will to do good…There can be so many treasures,” he observed, asking again “Where is your treasure?” Pope Francis then asked that the youth’s responses be given to their bishop, so that they could later be sent to him by letter.
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