By Justin McLellan, Catholic News Service
ROME (CNS) — Increasing division and violence in the United States must be combatted by living authentically and respecting others, Pope Francis said.
Respecting authenticity, he told students from the United States, involves “two things.” First, “that people expresses themselves as they are, that they are authentic and respect their own authenticity,” and secondly, “that they respect other people as they are.”
The pope responded to questions from young people May 25 during a meeting with participants in the Scholas Occurrentes movement. Pope Francis has been involved with the global education initiative, which connects underdeveloped schools to those with more resources, from the time he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.
The movement began in Argentina, and during the meeting Pope Francis said publicly for the first time that he hopes to return to his home country in 2024. “My idea is to go there next year; we’ll see if we can,” he said.
Seated in an auditorium just outside the Vatican, the pope fielded questions from students and one elderly person connected by video calls from Colombia, Mexico, Spain and the United States. Among them was María Camila Hurtado, a Colombian student who has lived in the United States for five years and asked advice about violence.
While Pope Francis said he doesn’t know how to solve the issue of widespread gun violence in the United States, he said that any crisis “must be well-identified” and cannot be overcome alone.
Pope Francis also responded to a question about integral education and said that young people should have better sexual education in schools rather than learn about sexuality from pornography.
“Pornography is the crudest commercialization of love,” he said. “How often, for lack of sexual education, do (people) end up with the commercialization of love. Love is not to be commercialized.”
Asked about young people’s relationship to older generations by the elderly Spanish woman, the pope recalled how fortunate he was that most of his grandparents lived until after he became a bishop.
“The deepest conversations I had, I had with them,” he said. “There, I learned values.”
The pope said that just as “young people need the elderly in order to dream,” the elderly should not be isolated since they “need to see that their roots bore fruit.”
At the end of the meeting, Pope Francis greeted 50 mayors from Latin American and Europe who participated in a Scholas training program to advance green practices in their communities. Pope Francis launched Scholas’ environmental project last year at the Vatican alongside U2 frontman, Bono.
The meeting included a link-up with a group of students in the United States and video greetings from the bishops of U.S. cities where Scholas has begun: Cardinals Wilton D. Gregory of Washington and Timothy M. Dolan of New York, and Archbishops José H. Gomez of Los Angeles and Thomas G. Wenski of Miami.