Pope to Scholas students: Rediscover life's playful dimension

Pope Francis closes the first ‘International Meeting of Meaning' in the Vatican, organised by Scholas Occurrentes in collaboration with CAF - Development Bank of Latin America and the Caribbean, and responds candidly to four questions.

May 24, 2024

Pope Francis presides over the closing session of the first 'International Meeting on Meaning' in the Vatican (Vatican Media)

By Sebastián Sansón Ferrari
"What is your earliest memory?" was the question that triggered the dialogue between Pope Francis and participants in the first ‘International Meeting of Meaning,’ organized by Vatican foundation Scholas Occurrentes from 21 to 23 May in the Vatican.

At the closing of this event in the Vatican's New Synod Hall, the participants presented to the Holy Father the conclusions of their work, and engaged the Pope in a lively dialogue in Spanish.

For three days, rectors of leading universities from around the world, personalities from the worlds of culture, politics, and technology, influential young people in their communities, and artists, sought concrete solutions to the challenges of the ‘University of Meaning,’ whose management the Holy Father has entrusted to Scholas.

Responding to the first question, Pope Francis recalled, as he has done on other occasions, when his grandmother would take him home and spend the day with them until lunch, and how they spoke the dialect of Piedmont in northern Italy. He called 'Piedmontese' his "first language," adding, "Then I learned Spanish."

Make room for hope
Turning to how someone who has suffered greatly should respond, the Holy Father urged them to despite such suffering, to leave their hearts open.

"The worst thing that can happen in life," he warned, "is to let that pain close you off. It's a bit like the gesture of the teeth, pain makes you unfriendly." In this context, Pope Francis encouraged us to "leave room for caressing," saying, "pain asks to be caressed. Pain calls for this."

"Make room for hope," he said.

When later discussing the role of art in the construction of meaning, Pope Francis emphasised that "art opens horizons" and exemplified the contribution of other disciplines.

Art widens your heart
"Mathematics helps you to develop firm concepts and helps you to progress. Philosophy opens up different ways of thinking," but art, he suggested, "pulls you forward, liberates you and widens your heart,’ he said, before reciting the first lines of the poem Everness by Jorge Luis Borges.

The Holy Father recalled how some nights at home, his father would read to them from Edmundo de Amicis' Corazón (Heart).

"That introduced me to literature," he said, adding that his grandmother would also make them repeat excerpts from ‘The Betrothed,’ which he still remembers.

Not only does art open you up, he suggested, it also "makes you sympathetic and lightens your heart."

After finishing this response, a Colombian rapper, Tostao, performed one of his works for the Holy Father and those gathered, eliciting applause from the audience.

Pope Francis likewise offered his compliments, commending him, "You are a good rapper."

Powerful tool of education
The Holy Father then heard the testimony of Isidora Uribe Silva who was bullied at the age of twelve and was out of the system for six months until she came to the Teresian Institution and changed schools. She felt hopeless because no one was working for inclusion, but now says she is happy because "you all trust that education is a powerful tool."

Pope Francis received a copy of a declaration of principles made by her, together with her university classmates who help her, in the foundation she created, called ‘Find your place.’

In the last part of the exchange, the participants asked the Pope ‘the meaning of the University of Meaning.’

To this, the Holy Father noted that the consultation is "a tautological question," as he warned of the danger of confusing "education" with "instruction." He also added that the ‘University of Meaning’ leads to work with the "three languages," those of "the hands, the heart and the mind."

Embracing playfulness
Moreover, the Holy Father called for ‘the ability to play’ and added that "when one loses the ability to play, and becomes too serious, one loses the meaning of life."

In this vein, he recounted that as a child he played with a rag ball, since leather balls were very expensive. "Children, when they play, invent things, two or three little pieces of wood are enough to make a game because the true dimension of play is creative,’" he emphasised, stressing how this imaginative aspect is key.

Pope Francis concluded the festive encounter by thanking those present for the meeting, which, he said, gave him great joy, and by imparting upon them his blessing.--Vatican News

Total Comments:0