Pope to Kenya’s youth: “Do not allow your hearts to be destroyed by corruption”

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Nairobi - Young people meet the Pope

Pope to Kenya’s youth: “Do not allow your hearts to be destroyed by corruption”

By Andrea Tornielli in Nairobi

Speaking off the cuff, the Pope pronounced some strong words at Nairobi’s Karasani Stadium: there are cases of corruption in all institutions, “even in the Vatican”. Young people who are recruited by fundamentalists “need education and work”
andrea tornielli
in nairobi

“Whenever we accept a bribe and put it in our pocket, we destoy our heart, our personality and our country. Please, do not develop a taste for the sugar of corruption! Corruption does not just exists in politics, it exists in all institutions, even in the Vatican! Corruption is sweet like sugar, we like it, it’s easy but then we end up in a bad way. We become diabetic or our country becomes diabetic.” Francis used this metaphor in the speech he pronounced entirely off the cuff, in Spanish, before a crowd of 70,000 young people gathered in the Karasani Stadium in Naironi. The Pope set aside his prepared speech and answered some questions put to him by two young people, Linette and Manuel. He did so in Spanish, with simultaneous interpretation into English.

Life’s challenges

“Why are there rifts, conflicts, death, war, fanaticism and destruction among young people?” Francis reminded those present of an episode that takes place at the start of the Bible, where a brother who killed another brother: “The spirit of evil leads us to destruction, division, tribalism, corruption, drugs and fanaticism.”

Francis underlined the importance of prayer: “A person loses the best part of their being if they forgets to pray, because they feel omnipotent, because they do not feel the need to ask for help in the face of so many tragedies.” He went on to invite young people to see life’s difficulties not as something “that holds you back, destroys you, holds you prisoner”, but as an opportunity. “We do not live in heaven but on earth. And earth is full of problems. Not only is it full of problems but also of temptations towards evil. But as young people, you have the ability to make a choice. Do I want to be overcome by difficulties or do I want to see them as an opportunity to gain personal victory?”

Against tribalism

“Are you like sportsmen who come to the stadium to play and win or are you like those who have sold your victory to others and pocketed the money?” the Pope asked. Francis then went on to speak about the scourge of tribalism, about ethnic and tribal division. “Tribalism destroys a nation, it means keeping your hands behind your back, with a stone in each one of them, ready to lob it at the other person!” Francis explained that tribalism is defeated by listening, asking one’s brother or sister why they are acting like that and listening to their response. You win with the heart and with a willingness for dialogue. “If you do not engage in dialogue, if you do not listen to each other, the tribalism that erodes society will always be there.”

The Pope invited some young people to approach him and asked all 70,000 present – including Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta and all the authorities, to stand and hold each other by the hand, as “a sign against tribalism, we are all one nation and this is how our hearts should be! Overcoming tribalism requires daily effort. It involves listening, it involves the heart, opening up to others, it involves the hands, shaking hands.”

Fighting corruption

“Can one justify corruption simply by pointing out that others are sinful and corrupt? How can we be Christians and fight the evil of corruption?” Francis asked in his response to young people’s questions. The Pope recalled the case of a young Argentinian man who was enthusiastic about politics and had found a job in a ministry. When it came to deciding what he needed for his office, he received three quotes and chose the one that was best value for money. But his boss said to him: “Why did you choose this one? You should choose the one that gives you more money to put in your pocket.” “Corruption does not just exist in politics, it exists in all institutions, even in the Vatican!”Francis continued. “Corruption is sweet like sugar, we like it, it’s easy but then we end up in a bad way. We become diabetic or our country becomes diabetic.”

“Whenever we accept a bribe and put it in our pocket,” Francis said, “we destroy our heart, our personality and our country. Please, do not develop a taste for the sugar of corruption!” And if we see that others around us are corrupt, “as with everything, we need to be the first to change: if you do not want corruption in your life, in your country, start with yourself! If you do not start, neither will the person next to you. Corruption robs us of joy, of peace. A corrupt person does not live in peace.” “Whatever you steal through corrupt actions, stays here,” Francis explained, illustrating his point with a story about an elderly man who died and after his funeral, a woman said the coffin would not close because he wanted to take all the money he had stolen with him to the grave. But corruption has lasting consequences “in the hearts of men and women who are left wounded by your examples of corruption. The effects of what you should have done but did not remain. It remains in the form of children who are sick or hungry because the money you gained through corruption was intended for them. Corruption is not a path to life, it is a path toward death.”

How to use means of communication to spread the Gospel?

“The first means of communication is the word, a gesture, a smile, closeness, seeking friendship. If you are kind to one another, smile at each other like brothers and sisters, if you are close to one another, despite being from different tribes, and you approach the poor, the abandoned, the elderly in need of company, these gestures of communication are more contagious than any television channel.”

The recruitment of terrorists

In response to Manuel’s question about how to help those who are recruited by fundamentalists, Francis said: “We need to understand what leads a young person to be recruited or to seek recruitment. The young person detaches themselves fromt heir family, their friends, their tribe, their country, from life, and they learn to kill. This is a question you should put to all authorities: if a young man or woman doesn’t have a job or cannot study, what cant hey do? Offend, or fall into drug addiction, or commit suicide. In Europe, suicide rates are not published. Or they get involved in activities that take them down a path of deception in life.”

“The first thing to do to prevent a young person from being recruited,” he continued, “is to educate them and give them work. If a young person cannot work, what future awaits them? And that is where the recruitment idea slips in. If a young person has no chance of an education, what do they do? This is where the danger lies. A danger which is beyond us and beyond our country because it depends on an international system that is unfair and which places money instead of the human being at the centre. What can I do to make them come back? First of all, pray, pray hard, because God is stronger than any form of recruitment. Then, speak to him with love, offering them friendship, inviting them into your group, don’t leave them alone.”

God’s hand and life’s tragedies

Francis then answered a question put to him by “Manuel the theologian” as the Pope referred to him. “How do we know that God Our Father is there in life’s tragedies? Men and women the world over ask themselves this question and they find no answer. There is no answer but there is one path: look at the Son of God! God gave His Son to save us all. God Himself became a tragedy and allowed Himself be destroyed on the cross. When you feel despair, look at the cross: that is where God’s destruction lies, but it is a challenge to our faith, hope! Because history did not end here, but with the resurrection that broght reneal to us all.”

The Pope then confided something to Kenya’s young. Reaching into his pockets, he said: “In my pocket, I always carry two things with me: A rosary to pray and something else which may seem strange: the stiry of God’s failure. It is a mini “Via Crucis”,”he said pulling out a small book. “Jesus suffered, from the minute they sentenced him to death, to the moment he was buried. I do what I can with these two things, but thanks to them I never lose hope.”

Helping those who have not experienced family love

Finally, Francis talked about young people who have not felt the warmth of family love. “There are abandonned children everywhere, They were abandoned at birth and are deprived of family affection. Defend the family, defend it always. Everywhere we see not only abandoned children but also abandoned elderly people who never receive a visit. How do we come out of this negative experience of abandonment and lack of love?”

The Pope said there is “only one remedy” for this. “Give what you have not received! If you did not receive understanding, be understanding with others. If you did not receive love, then love others. If you felt the pain of loneliness, approach those who are lonely. Flesh is cured with flesh! And God became flesh.”

Sat, 11/28/2015 - 23:15
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