By Francesca Merlo
In a video message to the youth of Scholas Occurrentes, Pope Francis urges them to be faithful and sure of their own identity. He asks that young people avoid masking who they really are when meeting new people, because “life is not a carnival.”
Scholas Occurrentes, Latin for “schools that meet”, is an educational project launched in 2001 by Pope Francis encouraging integration and encounter through sports, arts and technology.
Who are you?
“The question of ‘identity’ is not an easy one”, says the Pope. It makes you ask yourself: “who am I?”, a question that goes hand in hand with another: “What is the meaning of my life?” This, says the Pope, is not something you can answer quickly, nor is it something you can “forget” about. It is a question, he says, that you need to keep asking yourself, in all openness.
The Pope goes on to say that our identity is not “information you can look up on the internet”. We are not something “defined” or “established”. “We are on a journey; we are growing”, says the Pope.
He says we are the authors and the readers of the stories of our lives, and that each step we take is a chapter. But, he says, “we are not the only authors”. Each identity has its story, explains the Pope, and therefore belongs to “something bigger than yourself”. He says identity comes from a family, from a country, from a community – each identity has its own roots.
Remember, you belong
Pope Francis says that the danger of our times is precisely when an identity “forgets its roots”, which causes a person with fear or as an enemy. That, says the Pope, “is where war begins”, from something small, escalating.
So, the Pope continues, to avoid this violence we need constant reminders of our belonging, of our roots. We need consistent new encounters, and in each encounter we must be able to be ourselves. We need the constant memory of our own “belonging”.
Pope Francis goes on to urge the young people “not to sell what is deeply imbedded within us”, that is, our sense of belonging and our identity. He said that, in the journey of life, we “meet different people with different identities – all enriching each other, creating solidarity.”
Have no fear
Finally, the Pope thanks all those that made the International Youth encounter possible, especially the young people themselves. “You allow life to tell your story”.
So, he says, “Don’t be afraid.”