“Volunteer work is the effort of going out to help others”, Pope Francis said to representatives of the Federation of Christian Organizations for International Voluntary Service ( focsiv ), whom he received in audience on Monday, November 14, in the Consistory Hall. The Holy Father consigned his prepared discourse (see page 4) to the Federation’s President, Ivana Borsotto, and addressed the volunteers extemporaneously in Italian. The following is a translation of his words.
hank you very much for this visit. Thank you very much for your words. This is the speech that I should read now, but it is better that you read it at home and that, at this time, I say something to you that comes from my heart, alright? I will give it to the President. She will be in charge of circulating it.
Volunteer work is one of the three things that I have found in Italy, that is a characteristic proper to you. I have not seen it like this elsewhere. The other things are parish oratories, especially in the north, and the associations for economic or banking aid, so that people can get a mortgage and go on — an economic type of help. Three typically Italian things.
I will begin with the first one: volunteer work. It is one of the most beautiful things because each person, with his or her own freedom, chooses to make this journey, which is an outward-bound journey, going out with an outstretched hand, a journey outwards to be concerned about others. Action has to be taken. I could stay at home, seated, calm, watching television or doing other things … No, I make this effort to go out. Volunteer work is the effort of going out to help others. It’s like this. There is no desk volunteering and there is no television volunteer work. no. Volunteer work is always outward-bound, an open heart, an outstretched hand, the legs ready to go. Going out to encounter and going out to give. I would like to return to these two words.
Going forth to encounter. We are living in a civilization of clashes. Wars are a great clash and no one today doubts that we are experiencing a third world war: in one century, one clash after another, one after the other… And we never learn, on a global level but also on a personal level. How many times are decisions made on the basis of confrontation: “Who are you”? — “No, I don’t know who I am, but I am against this and against this”. One’s own identity is to be against, to clash. Instead, the path that you propose, that you live and that is a truly Christian proposal is the encounter to resolve, to heal the clash. We are living in the civilization of clashes. It is easier to say: “I am against this, against that, against that other one”, than to say “I am with”. This is a greater struggle for us. And you go out to meet people, to find men and women who need help, who need an outstretched hand, in order to journey together; with, not against.
This is your volunteer work and you do it without a salary. Yes, maybe they give you something for the bus, the ticket, but nothing more. Without a salary, not to earn a living but out of vocation. And it is an investment of your time that makes the lives of other people fruitful. Continue along this path of volunteering. It is part of the riches of your Italian culture.
If there are problems — there will always be problems, everywhere — problems should not be resolved like an ostrich does, by burying its head in the sand. Problems are solved by journeying, going, arguing … Yes, quarrelling is good for you! Sometimes a good quarrel is good for you … And understanding one another well, but as brothers and sisters, quarrelling like siblings. Good siblings know how to quarrel well. I remember once — a family thing — we are five [siblings] and my brother, the second one, got angry with the third one, both of them already married, adults, and they had it out with each other! I was there listening and I thought: “My God, these two are not mincing their words… “You did this… you are an idiot… you are this, the other…. Everything. Then they stopped. And my brother said, “I am leaving because I have things to do…. Bye bella!”. A kiss and it was all over.
Siblings know how to argue but without getting to the point of destroying the essential which is their fraternal bond. We have to do this, seek the truth. There are different points of view, one argues, good, but this cannot be touched, this always remains, fraternity. And volunteer work is a hymn to fraternity. It’s a hymn to going forward like this. This is why, continue to go forward like this, and to help in this way, to help by lending a hand to people.
This is what I wanted to tell you before giving you my blessing and saying goodbye. I am very happy about what you do. Continue, and may other people join you in doing this good work of humanity. Thank you!