Pope Francis set aside his prepared remarks to respond to the dreams and hopes of young people who spoke to him in Cuba on Sunday evening.
“I took notes,” he told a Sept. 20 youth meeting at the Father Felix Varela Cultural Center near Havana’s Cathedral.
“The word that hit me hard: dream,” Pope Francis said. “A Latin American writer used to say: ‘People have two eyes, one made of flesh and one made of glass. With the eye of flesh, we see what we look at. For the eye made of glass, we see what we dream of.’ That’s nice, isn’t it?”
“We have to allow for the ability to dream. The young person who is not capable of dreaming is closed in on himself,” he said.
The Pope also responded to the young people’s concerns about the need to learn how to work with others who think differently than themselves in Cuba, a one-party communist country.
“Let us not close in on the culture of ideologies,” Pope Francis said. “When I have my ideology, my way of thinking, and you have yours, I close in on the ideology.”
“Open hearts, open minds!” the Pope continued. “If you think differently than I do, why shouldn’t we talk? Why do we throw stones over that which separates us, that which makes us different? Why don’t we shake hands over that which we have in common?”
This ability to talk and find common ground, which the Pope called “social friendship” is a safeguard against enmity, which he said always brings destruction and death.
“The greatest enmity is war–the world today is being destroyed by war because we are unable to sit down and because we are unable to talk.”
“When there is division, there is death. Death in the soul. We’re killing social friendship, and so I ask you, be able to create social friendship.”
Pope Francis also spoke about hope, drawing from the event’s opening remarks from two young people.
“The young people are the hope of a country. We hear that all over the place,” the Pope said.
However, hope is not to be confused for naive optimism. Rather, it is the ability to work and suffer in order to achieve something greater.
“Hope is hard at work,” he said.
For Pope Francis, one of the biggest obstacles to hope for youth throughout the world is unemployment. He said this is a symptom of the “throwaway” culture in today’s world.
“This throwaway culture is hurting us all, is depriving us of hope,” he said.
“Children are thrown away, because they are not liked, they are killed before they are born. The elderly are thrown away… because they aren’t productive. Some countries have enacted euthanasia, and how many others have a ‘hidden euthanasia’?” he asked.
“Young people are thrown away because they don’t find work,” the Pope said, warning that this phenomena leads to despair and even suicide.
He urged young people to not give in to despair and defeatism, but rather to travel along the path of hope in a culture of encounter with others.
“An African proverb says: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with others,’” the Pope said.
“Cuban youth, even though you may think differently, have different points of view, I wish that you go together, seeking hope, seeking the future.”
“Please, let us go together in a culture of encounter, even though we think differently, there is something greater than ourselves, which is the greatness of our people, our fatherland, the beauty, that sweet hope of the fatherland that we have to reach and realize,” he continued.
The Pope concluded his address by assuring the young people of his prayers and asking for theirs.
“I wish the best for you, I will pray for you, and I ask you to pray for me,” he said, “and if any one of you is a nonbeliever and cannot pray, at least wish me good things.”
Pope Francis is visiting Cuba from Sept. 19-22. He will then travel to the United States until Sept. 27.