The theme of the festival this year is “In Mezzo alla Gente” – “Amongst People” - which highlights the multiple richness of people as an expression of personal talents and warns against despotic regimes which increase poverty and inequality.
Please find below Vatican Radio’s translation of the Pope’s video-message:
Best wishes to all of you participating in the VI festival of the Social Doctrine of the Church. The theme for this year is: “Amongst People”. This expresses a great truth: we are made to be with others (this is what I was talking about the day after my election as Bishop of Rome). Our humanity is much enriched when we are with others in whatever situation they may find themselves. It is isolation that harms, not sharing. Isolation spreads fear and mistrust and stops us from rejoicing in brotherhood. We really must tell each other that we are taking more risks when we isolate ourselves rather than when we open ourselves to the other: there is a much higher probability of hurting ourselves in closure and rejection than in encounter. The same is true when we get close to someone: I am thinking of a sick or elderly person, an immigrant, an unemployed or a poor person. When we take care of the other we end up complicating our own life far less than when we're just focused upon ourselves.
Being amongst people does not mean merely being open towards others but also letting others get close to us. We need to be looked at, called, touched, challenged; we need others in order to be able to partake of all that others give us. A relationship implies an exchange between people: experience tells us that we usually receive more than we give. Amongst our people there is real human wealth. There are countless stories of solidarity, help and support within our families and communities. The dignity with which some people face economic hardship, pain, hard work and other challenges is impressive. Meeting these people allows you to touch their greatness and receive a kind of light that makes it clear that it is possible to nurture hope for the future; you can believe that good is stronger than evil because of them. Being amongst people means we have access to the lessons of life. For example: I was recently told that a 19-year-old girl had died. The pain was immense and many attended her funeral. What struck everyone was not just the absence of despair, but the perception of a kind of serenity. After the funeral people were commenting with wonder on how they felt comforted after the ceremony. The young woman’s mother said: “I received the grace of serenity.” Daily life is interwoven with things that leave their mark on us: they never lose their effect even although they may never feature in the headlines. Things happen just like that: without speeches or explanations one understands the things that are really worthy in life.
Being amongst people also means experiencing that we are all part of a people. Everyday life is possible because it is not made of the sum of many individual elements, but of the joint effort of many people that come together to give life to the common good. Being together helps us see the whole picture. When we see the whole picture our vision is enriched and it is clear that the roles that each of us plays within social dynamics can never be isolated or seen as absolute. When a people is separated from whoever is in power, when choices are made on the basis of power and not as a fruit of popular expression, when those in power consider themselves more important than the people and decisions are made by few, or are anonymous, or are always dictated by real or presumed emergencies, then social harmony is threatened with serious consequences: poverty increases, peace is jeopardized, money is in command and the people suffers. Being amongst people is good therefore not only for the life of the individual but for everyone.
Being amongst people highlights the plurality of colors, cultures, races and religions. People allow you to experience first-hand the richness and beauty of diversity. Only with great a great act of violence would it be possible to reduce the variety, the plurality of thoughts and actions to a single way of doing and thinking. When you're with people you touch humanity: there is never just the head, there is always also the heart, there is more substance and less ideology. To solve people's problems you must start from the bottom, you must get your hands dirty, have courage, listen to the poorest and most marginalized.
It is instinctive to ask: how does one do that? We can find the answer looking to Mary. She serves, she is humble, she is merciful, she walks with us, she is concrete, and she never takes center stage but is a constant presence. If we look to Her we will find the best way to be amongst people. Looking to Her we can tread all human paths without fear or prejudice; with Her we can become capable of not excluding anyone. This is my wish for all of you.
Before saying goodbye I would like to thank the Bishop of Verona for his welcome, all the volunteers for their availability and generosity, Fr Adriano Vincenzi for his work promoting the knowledge and the updating of the Church's social doctrine.
And remember: do not forget to pray for me. Thank you.