Today Pope Francis received in audience a delegation of youth from Italian Catholic Action for Christmas Greetings.
Here is a translation of Pope Francis’ address to them.
Dear boys and girls, good morning! Christmas is approaching and I am happy to meet with you for this joyous moment in which we exchange greetings. I thank you for your visit and I greet you affectionately. You come from different Italian dioceses, in representation of Youth Catholic Action. Through you I wish to have my greeting and Christmas good wishes reach the whole family of Italian Catholic Action.
The Angel’s announcement to the shepherds will resound at Christmas: “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). Jesus’ birth is announced as a “great joy” – and you [he turns to one of the boys] did you remember this, a “great joy”? — originated by the discovery that God loves us and, through Jesus’ birth, has made Himself close to us to save us; we are loved by God. What a wonderful thing! When we are a bit sad, when everything seems to go awry, when a boy or girl friend disappoints us – or, also, we disappoint ourselves! – let us think: “God loves me”; God doesn’t abandon me.” Yes, boys and girls, our Father is always faithful to us and does not cease to go after us when we distance ourselves somewhat. Therefore, in a Christian’s heart there is always joy, always!
And this joy multiplies by sharing it! Joy received as a gift calls to be witnessed in all our relationships: in the family, at school, in the parish, everywhere. In this you boys and girls of Catholic Action are helped by your formative journey , which this year has as its slogan “CIRCOndati di GIOIA” [“Surrounded by Joy].” This metaphor of the circus [in Italian] is thought-provoking; it is an experience of fraternity, of joy and of “nomad” life. The image of the circus can help you to feel that the Christian community and the group in which you are inserted is a missionary reality, which moves from country to country, from street to street to street, “CIRCOndando” [surrounding with joy] those you meet every day. By proclaiming to all the love and tenderness of Jesus, you become apostles of the joy of the Gospel. And joy is contagious! Is it true that joy is contagious? Do you agree? [They answer: “Yes!”] Infect with joy!
I would like to give you a task. This contagious joy is to be shared with all, but in a special way — and this is the task — with grandparents. Think well about this: this joy is shared with all, but in a special way with grandparents. Speak often with your grandparents; they also have this contagious joy. Ask them so many things, listen to them, they have the memory of history, the experience of life, and this will be a great gift for you which will help you on your journey. They also need to listen to you, grandparents also need you; they need to listen to you, to understand your aspirations, your hopes. Behold the task: to talk with grandparents, to listen to grandparents. The elderly have the wisdom of life. In order not to forget, we repeat the task: to speak with grandparents, to listen to grandparents. Boys and girls, all! [They repeat together: “to speak with grandparents, to listen to grandparents”] But how weak you are! A bit louder! [They repeat: “to speak with grandparents, to listen to grandparents”] Then, next year I’ll ask you about this, what you did …
Your commitment to peace is also contagious. This year also, you wished to link the word “peace” with the word “solidarity,” with an initiative in favor of your contemporaries of a difficult neighborhood of Naples. It’s a good gesture, which indicates the style with which you wish to proclaim God’s face, which is love. May the Lord bless this your project of goodness!
I see that your educators, your assistants and the national leaders of Italian Catholic Action are accompanying you. I greet them warmly and thank them for the commitment with which they dedicate themselves to your Christian education. I wish you all from my heart a happy and holy Christmas – to all. I extend this greeting to your families and to the whole Association spread in all the dioceses of Italy. May the Lord bless you and our Lady protect you. And, please, don’t forget to pray for me.
The task was to speak with grandparents and to listen to grandparents. Right? But I do not want to end this meeting without remembering a grandfather. who has passed away, whom the Lord has called: Don Mansueto [H.E. Monsignor Mansueto Bianchi, General Ecclesiastical Assistant of Italian Catholic Action], whom I loved so much. May he, from Heaven, teach us to speak with grandparents and to listen to grandparents. He had a beautiful name: Mansueto, [which means meek] a meek man, a good man, a good grandfather … May he teach us! And I invite you to pray a Hail Mary for him.
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]