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(Città del Vaticano/AGESCI) – “Do build bridges in a society that is used to putting up walls!”, H. H. Pope Francis, who is the head of the Roman Catholic Church, urged some 100,000 Scouts from the Associazione Guide e Scout Cattolici Italiani (Association of Italian Catholic Guides and Scouts, AGESCI, one of the two National Scout Associations in Italy) who had gathered on Saint Peter’s Square on 13 June 2015.
A blue sea of AGESCI’s light blue Scout shirts framed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s white columns and the impressive façade of the Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican: this is how Saint Peter’s Square looked this Saturday for the special audience granted to AGESCI.
Some 100,000 Cubs, Scouts, Rovers, Rangers, Leaders and Chaplains from all over Italy had travelled to Rome to “embrace” and listen to the Bishop of Rome. Why so many? It is probably owed to the charisma of the Pope and resulted in the largest meetings of Catholic Scouts for a papal audience (the meeting may well have been the largest one-day gathering of Scouts and Guides altogether).
There was a real desire “to get in the way”, to listen and to share. The need for a personal meeting, even physical, with the Bishop of Rome was palpable: Scouts threw hundreds of their scarves onto the Pope’s jeep; and he played the game catching some in mid air. Countless hugs, high-fives, letters delivered in person or by proxy.
Driven by a common spirit of pilgrimage, no obstacle was too big for the Scouts. Hundreds of Roman Scout Groups hosted their friends who had come to the city from the north, the south and the islands. Some had travelled by train, others by plane, and many by bus. And one group of 17 Rovers and Rangers had followed a section of the Via Francigena by bicycle from San Rossore (the venue of AGESCI’s National Route 2014 in Summer 2014) to Rome: “We were tired”, they said, “but we did not give up. Sharing this kind of experience under these very special circumstances gave us the necessary strength!”
Addressing his fellow Scouts and Guides, the Bishop of Rome had a very clear, effective, and concrete message: “I am certain, that AGESCI can generate fresh evangelical fervour in the [Roman Catholic] Church and a new capacity for dialogue in our societies. Don’t forget: be open to dialogue with everybody!” Describing the ideal Scout, Pope Francis said he or she must have “a capacity for dialogue and build bridges in a society that is used to putting up walls”. Indeed, “you are an asset to the [Roman Catholic] Church in Italy”, he added, but “do not boast about this, please.” Scouting and Guiding, “provide an important contribution to the mission that families have in educating children and young people”.
Closing his remarks, Pope Francis urged the 100,000 Scouts and Guides from AGESCI gathered on Saint Peter’s Square and their millions of brother and sister Scouts and Guides around the world to always remember: “Please, do build bridges!”
Listen to the recorded Message by Pope Francis on the occasion of the special audience for AGESCI (Rome, 13 June 2015; full text in Italian)
Sources of images: L’Osservatore Romano, AGESCI and Massimo de Luca (AGESCI, 2015)
Original text by Marco Angelillo, rearranged by AGESCI International Secretariat)
Rupert comes from Austria and is the Executive Assistant to the Regional Director. His responsibilities include internal and external communications and administrative assistance in Regional events.
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