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Dorian Grey, Peter Pan and the Hikikomori: The Pope’s Three Close Messages to Young People

(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 01.10.2022).- Pope Francis sent a special message to young people taking part in the “Ursuline Global Education Pact.” The Holy Father made use of different personages of literary works to exemplify several points. Here is an English translation of the main part of his message, with headings and phrases in bold added by ZENIT.

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1st Allow Your Beauty to Shine

The first thing I wish to tell you, dear young people, is allow your beauty to shine! True beauty, not like that of worldly fashion. In our society, suffocated by so much unpleasantness, may you show forth that beauty which has always belonged to us, from the first moment of creation, when God made mankind in his own image and saw that it was very good. This beauty must both be shared and defended. For if it is true that beauty will save the world – as Prince Myshkin said in Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot – then we must be vigilant so that the world also saves beauty. To achieve this, I invite you to embrace a “global beauty compact” with all the young people of the world, for there is no education without beauty. “We cannot educate without leading a person to beauty, without leading the heart to beauty. Forcing my talk a little, I would say that an education is not successful if you do not know how to create poets. The path of beauty is a challenge that must be addressed” (Address to the participants in the “Education: The Global Compact” Seminar (7 February 2020).

The beauty we are talking about is not turned in on itself like that of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own image and drowned in the lake in which he saw himself mirrored. Nor of the beauty that comes to terms with evil, like Dorian Gray who, when the spell ended, found himself with a disfigured face. Instead, we are speaking of the beauty that never fades because it is a reflection of divine beauty. Indeed, our God is inseparably good, true and beautiful. And beauty is one of the privileged ways of finding him (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium 167).

2nd You Are Called to “Do Something”

The second thing I wish to tell you concerns doing. The beauty that Jesus revealed to us is a splendour that communicates itself through action; a beauty that is embodied in order to be shared; a beauty that is not afraid of getting its hands dirty, of becoming disfigured in order to be faithful to the love of which it is made. You too, then, must not remain a “sleeping beauty” in the woods: you are called to act, to do something. True beauty is always fruitful, it pushes us outwards and gets us moving. Even contemplation of God cannot remain at the enjoyment of seeing him, as the three disciples on Mount Tabor thought at the moment of Jesus’ Transfiguration: “How beautiful to be here! Let us make three tents… ”(cf. Mt

I wish for each of you, then, a healthy restlessness in your desires and projects, a restlessness that always pushes you to keep on walking, and never has the sense of having “arrived”. Do not cut yourselves off from the world by locking yourselves in your room like a Peter Pan, who does not want to grow up, or like young hikikomori afraid to face the world. Always be open and courageous like Saint Ursula, the “little bear”, who had the courage to embark on a long journey with her companions and fearlessly faced attacks to the point of martyrdom. May you too be “little bears” who never shy away from their responsibilities. If young people do not change the world, who will?

3rd How to Defend Beauty

You will say to me: yes, but how? By defending the scarred beauty of so many outcasts of our world; by opening yourselves to welcome others, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized; by looking at those who are different not as a threat but as a treasure. And by defending the wounded beauty of creation, protecting the resources of our common home, adopting more moderate and environmentally friendly lifestyles. In this regard, I invite you to read with your schoolmates the message that I addressed to the young people gathered in Prague for the “EU Youth Conference” in July this year. I am sure that you too will find there further encouragement for your commitments.

Translation of the Italian original into Spanish by ZENIT’s Editorial Director and, into English, by Virginia M. Forrester