(Photo: Rimini Meeting)

Meeting 2023: The Pope's message

The Holy Father's words signed by Cardinal Parolin, on the occasion of the 44th edition. Davide Prosperi: "We have nothing more at heart but to learn that 'new morality' that springs from the encounter with Jesus."

From the Vatican, 29 July 2023
His Reverend Excellency
Bishop Nicolò Anselmi of Rimini

Most Reverend Excellency,

this year the Holy Father again entrusts you with His message addressed to the organizers and participants of the Meeting for friendship among peoples, while, unfortunately, war and divisions sow resentment and fear in hearts, and the other who is different from me is often perceived as a rival. Global and pervasive communication causes this widespread attitude to become a mentality, so that differences appear as symptoms of hostility and a sort of epidemic of enmity occurs.

In this context, the title of the Meeting sounds bold: "Human existence is an inexhaustible friendship". Bold because it clearly goes against the trend, in a time marked by individualism and indifference, which generate loneliness and many forms of waste.

It is a situation that is impossible to get out of on your own. Humanity has always experienced it: no one can save themselves. For this reason, in a precise moment of history, God took the initiative: “He sends us his Son, he gives him to us, he hands him over, he shares him... so that we can learn the way of fraternity, of self-giving. In a definitive way, he opens up a new horizon; he is a new word which sheds light on so many situations of exclusion, disintegration, loneliness and isolation. He is a word which breaks the silence of loneliness” (Homily in Asunción, Paraguay, 12 July 2015).

Jesus himself presents himself as a friend: “I no longer call you slaves. I have called you friends” (Jn 15:15). The Spirit of the risen Christ has broken loneliness by giving man his friendship, as pure grace. Giussani recalled this in the words that have given this year’s Meeting its title: “Human solitude dissolves with the advent of this gift. Human experience is no longer a lonely, disconsolate powerlessness but awareness and vitality […] Our strength is an Other. Our certainty is an Other. Existence is a profound dialogue. Thus solitude is abolished at its very roots in every moment of life. […] Human existence is an inexhaustible friendship” (The Journey to Truth is an Experience, Montreal 2006, 71-72).

Addressing young people, the Holy Father exalted the value of true friendship, which widens the heart: “Faithful friends […] are also a reflection of the Lord’s love, his gentle and consoling presence in our lives. The experience of friendship teaches us to be open, understanding and caring towards others, to come out of our own comfortable isolation and to share our lives with others”(Christus vivit, 151). And we can consider this alongside this other reflection of Fr. Giussani: «The true nature of friendship is to live freely together for destiny. There can be no friendship between us, we cannot call ourselves friends, if we do not love each other's destiny above all things, beyond any profit» (Attraverso la compagnia dei credenti [Through the company of believers], Milan 2021, 184).

The attitude of openness to the other as a brother is one of the hallmarks of the pontificate of Pope Francis, of his witness and of his magisterium: “Our love for others, for who they are, moves us to seek the best for their lives. Only by cultivating this way of relating to one another will we make possible a social friendship that excludes no one and a fraternity that is open to all” (Encyclical Fratelli tutti, 94). It is truly “genuine social friendship”, which the Pope continues to recommend as the only possibility even in the most dramatic situations - even in the face of war –“within a society [that] makes true universal openness possible” (ibid., 99).

The law of friendship was established by Jesus with these words: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”(Jn 15:13). Because of this the Holy Father asks Christians and all men and women of good will not to remain deaf before the cry that rises to God from this world of ours. Speeches are not enough, rather "concrete gestures" and "shared decisions" are needed that build a culture of peace where each of us finds ourselves living: “reconciling with family members, friends and neighbours, praying for those who hurt us, recognizing and helping those in need, speaking words of peace at school, university or in society, ‘anointing’ with closeness those who feel alone...” (Speech at the World Meeting on Human Fraternity "Not alone", 10 June 2023). It is path that everyone can follow and the Church never tires of encouraging people to follow it, practicing this supreme human and Christian virtue almost obstinately.

Dear friends, is this not the contribution that the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples has tried to make in its more than forty-year history? To be a place of friendship between individuals and peoples, opening paths for encounter and dialogue. In this troubled hour of history, the Pope encourages you so that your willingness to have an inexhaustible friendship may never fail – because it is founded in Christ and on the rock of Peter, ready to seize the good that anyone can bring to everyone's life, because “Other cultures are not enemies from which we need to protect ourselves, but differing reflections of the inexhaustible richness of human life” (Enc. Fratelli tutti, 147).

Our human experience, which we share with every person, whatever cultural and religious tradition they belong to, is the ground on which the experience of friendship that builds history can take root, as Pope Benedict XVI said: “The meeting of cultures is possible because man, despite all the differences of his history and social constructs, remains one and the same being. This unique being that is man, however touched and affected in the very depth of his existence by truth itself” (Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions, San Francisco 2004, 65).

How many friendships were born in the pavilions of the Rimini Fiera during the Meetings! As the Holy Father affirms, “true friendships [...] happen, and then it is as if they are cultivated. To the point of letting the other person into my life» (Interview with FM Milenium 106.7, September 2015). Here is a good definition of friendship, to be practiced more and more: to let another person enter your life.

Pope Francis hopes that the Meeting for Friendship among Peoples will continue to promote the culture of encounter, open to all, without exception, because in everyone there is a reflection of the Father who "gives to everyone life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). May each of the participants learn to approach others in the way of Jesus, who “always extends his hand, always tries to raise, so as to ensure that people may heal, be happy and encounter God” (Catechesis, 7 August 2019). So that social friendship and friendship between peoples may grow.

The Pope asks that Your Excellency, the organizers, the volunteers, and all those who will take part in the Meeting, remember Him in prayer and cordially sends the Apostolic Blessing.

I send my personal wishes for the best outcome of the initiative, and profit from this message to affirm my most distinguished regards

Your Most Reverend Excellency

Pietro Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State

Davide Prosperi, president of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, commented thus on Pope Francis' message addressed to the organisers and participants of the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples in Rimini from 20 to 25 August:

«I deeply thank the Holy Father on behalf of the entire Communion and Liberation movement for his message addressed to the participants of the Meeting. I thank him above all for his encouragement to always be open to that 'inexhaustible friendship' - which gives the title to this year's edition - and to which Fr. Giussani has always educated us. Indeed, we have nothing more at heart than to learn that "new morality" that springs from the encounter with the "sympathy" that Jesus has for us. Fr. Giussani said: "Morality is very simple: it is to have a sympathy, a human sympathy. Human like the sympathy that a mother feels for her son and the son feels for his mother. Because this sympathy comes from Jesus; Jesus has this human sympathy for you, for me, and I, in spite of my mistakes say: 'Yes, Lord, I am in this sympathy'. This last affirmation is the last chance to overcome the nihilism that we 'take' by contagion from the society in which we live’.”

Thus, in encountering this original sympathy of Jesus through belonging to the Church, a human companionship that has our journey to destiny at heart, we find ourselves bound by a certain friendship that leads us in the world, as Pope Francis asks us, to encounter the other, starting with the most fragile, with “’concrete gestures' and 'shared choices' that build a culture of peace". The Meeting is in fact this attempt: a concrete gesture that bets on this 'new morality' in the encounter between cultures, ideas, and above all between people, for the common construction of a more human world.
We are truly moved and full of gratitude to the Pope for how he always testifies to us the beauty and convenience of the Christian gaze on others and on the whole of reality.»