VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Individuals and governments must fight indifference and be actively prepared to respond to discrimination, hatred and violence, particularly anti-Semitism, Pope Francis said.
“May we help one another in turn to grow a culture of responsibility, of memory and of closeness, and to establish an alliance against indifference, against every form of indifference,” he told leaders and experts attending a global gathering on anti-Semitism.
The pope met at the Vatican Jan. 29 with people attending the Rome International Conference on Anti-Semitism, which was organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, in conjunction with the Union of Italian Jewish Communities. The one-day conference looked at the responsibility of government employees, lawmakers, religions and educators in addressing anti-Semitism and crimes connected to anti-Semitic hatred.
The pope told his audience, “We are responsible when we are able to respond. It is not merely a question of analyzing the causes of violence and refuting their perverse reasoning, but of being actively prepared to respond to them.”
“The enemy against which we fight is not only hatred in all of its forms, but even more fundamentally, indifference, for it is indifference that paralyzes and impedes us from doing what is right even when we know that it is right,” he said.
Indifference, he said, is the perverse root of death that leads to desperation and deafening silence, the pope said, recalling his 2016 visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp where he experienced “a disturbing silence that leaves room only for tears, for prayers and for the begging of forgiveness.”
Indifference “is a virus that is dangerously contagious in our time, a time when we are ever more connected with others, but are increasingly less attentive to others,” he said.
“And yet the global context should help us understand that none of us is an island and none will have a future of peace without one that is worthy for all.”
The “vaccine” to take against this virus of indifference, he said, is the grace of memory and recalling with one’s heart and soul the “whole journey” that connects the past to the present.
“In order to recover our humanity, to recover our human understanding of reality and to overcome so many deplorable forms of apathy toward our neighbor, we need this memory, this capacity to involve ourselves together in remembering,” the pope said. “Memory is the key to accessing the future, and it is our responsibility to hand it on in a dignified way to young generations.”
“To build our history, which will either be together or will not be at all, we need a common memory, living and faithful, that should not remain imprisoned in resentment but, though riven by the night of pain, should open up to the hope of a new dawn,” the pope said.
The Catholic Church wants to walk hand-in-hand with her Jewish brothers and sisters on a journey that is not political, but motivated by love, he said.
Young people need to be taught to become actively involved in the struggle against hatred and discrimination, he said, as well as in overcoming past conflicts.
“Indeed, to prepare a truly human future, rejecting evil is not enough; we need to build the common good together,” he said.
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