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Pope invites to find new places and ways of educating, and to be close to children and youth

 

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Br Emili Turú speaks about his encounter with Pope Francis

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On 10th April Pope Francis received superior general Brother Emili Turú in a private audience. In this interview, Brother Emili speaks about his encounter with the pontiff, who gave him a message for the Marists of Champagnat.

 

Why did this audience take place?

We are celebrating the bicentenary of the Institute’s foundation and, on another hand, the 22nd General Chapter will take place in September of this same year in Colombia. 

Therefore, we thought it was important to ask the Pope for a message for all Marists of Champagnat on the occasion of these celebrations.

 

Where was the audience celebrated and what was the tone of this meeting?

As is usual for a private audience, this took place in the private library of the Apostolic Palace. The place is very impressive: before reaching the library, you have to go through long corridors and various Renaissance halls, all of them extraordinarily decorated ... and, of course, various checkpoints. In any case, the personal warmth of the Pope makes you forget right away that you are in a “palace.” I would say that the tone was very brotherly, as expected.

The mere fact of sitting, not face to face with a table in between, but on one side of the table, with the chairs nearby, already indicates the tone of closeness that the Pope wants to give to such encounters.

 

Can you share any of the issues addressed with the Pope?

Almost from the beginning, the Pope was interested if we felt that the vocation of ‘Brother’ was sufficiently understood in the Church. I believe that the vocation of Brother is “one of the best kept secrets of the Catholic Church,” as the Vaticanista John Allen once said.

It is not known or valued enough, especially in the context of male religious life, which is mostly clerical, and that is how I expressed it to him.

For example, I showed him the invitation I received for this audience, where I was called “Father”… and, in fact, that is how it was published by Vatican news.

The Pope, as he has said many times, underscored that that is due to the strong clericalism that persists in the Church, which often ignores or even annuls the laity.

In this sense, he encouraged us to appreciate our own vocation as brothers and to continue promoting the lay vocation.

 

Any other topic you would like to mention?

The Pope was very explicit in his assessment of the extraordinary importance of the education of children and young people, and insisted that the school continues to be a privileged place for that education. That is why, he said, look for new places and ways to educate and be close to children and young people, but do not abandon the school.

 

Did you speak about new projects?

I took the Pope a book, as a gift, that is a photo-report on the ‘Fratelli Project,’ promoted jointly with the De La Salle Brothers in Lebanon, serving displaced children and youth, especially from Iraq and Syria. 

He was very interested in the project, so much so that he kept one of the books, but in another one he wrote, in his own handwriting, a beautiful dedication to the brothers who collaborate in this project, thanking them for their service and encouraging them to continue to plant because, in his own words, “it will bear much fruit.”

We also spoke about the “Blue Marists” of Aleppo, for whom he had words of admiration and sympathy, and to whom he sent a special blessing.

I also had the opportunity to speak to him about the new international foundations, from the “ad gentes” project (2005) and now with the Lavalla200> project.

 

The Pope, in the written message he gave him, refers to the 200 years of existence of the institute, as “a great history of delivery in favour of children and young people”...

That is so, and he repeated several times his gratitude not only for what we have done in the past, but, in particular, for what we are and do in the Church today.

And, of course, he asked us to pray for him!

I assured him that he can count on our prayers and support, and I thanked him in particular for the impulse he has given to the Church, inviting us all to be in a “permanent state of mission” and “going forth.”

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