By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — “War is the failure of politics,” Pope Francis said.

“This must be stressed: War is the failure of politics. It feeds on the poison that considers the other as an enemy,” the pope told young Italians involved in a yearlong course on social and political commitments aimed at promoting peace.

The course is part of the Italian bishops’ “Progetto Policoro,” which provides job training and volunteer opportunities for Italian young people and encourages them to become involved in improving the lives of their communities.

Meeting participants at the Vatican March 18, Pope Francis told them to “wage war, but another kind of war, an inner one, a war on ourselves to work for peace.”

Many people today do not have a very positive impression of politics, the pope said, because they see it as a source of scandals, corruption, inefficiency and a general lack of concern for the lives of the people politicians are supposed to represent.

And it is true, he said, that a kind of “politics that exercises power as dominion and not as service is not capable of caring, it tramples on the poor, exploits the earth and deals with conflict through war; it does not know how to dialogue.”

Politics, he said, should be “fueled” by tenderness and fruitfulness.

In politics, tenderness is the courage to allow “the smallest, the weakest, the poorest” to touch one’s heart, he said. “Indeed, they have a ‘right’ to appeal to our heart and soul.”

And fruitfulness “means looking to the future and investing in future generations; undertaking processes rather than occupying spaces,” he said. A good politician knows how to initiate processes that can help everyone rather than trying to carve out a sphere of influence.

Any good politician, the pope said, regularly should ask: “How much love did I put into my work? What did I do for the progress of my people? What mark did I leave on the life of society? What real bonds did I create? What positive forces did I unleash? How much social peace did I sow? What good did I achieve in the position that was entrusted to me?”

A good politician’s primary concern is not personal success, he said, “but involving people, generating entrepreneurship, making dreams flourish, making people feel the beauty of belonging to a community.”

Increasing participation is “balm for the wounds of democracy,” the pope said, calling on the young people to get involved and to invite their peers as well.