(Source: MJ/Vatican News)

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has conveyed Pope Francis’ warmest greetings to Bishop Francesco Lambasi of Rimini, Italy, on the occasion of the opening of the Meeting for Friendship between Peoples.

“The Holy Father wishes to convey through you his wish for the success of the 41st Meeting for Friendship amongst Peoples,” read Parolin’s letter, dated August 5. “To the organisers and all those who will participate, Pope Francis assures his closeness and his prayer.”

Every year since 1980, the Meeting for Friendship between Peoples has taken place in August, in Rimini.

This year’s meeting is themed “Devoid of wonder we remain deaf to the sublime”, from A.J. Heschel’s book God in Search of Man.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the meeting is taking place online.

All in the same boat

Echoing Pope Francis’s words during the Extraordinary Moment of Prayer on March 27 2020, Cardinal Parolin said that we all are in the same boat tossed about in a storm that has unmasked our vulnerabilities, especially since we are all affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The theme of this year’s meeting, therefore, “offers a precious and original contribution at a dizzying moment in history” when we have lost our ability to look in amazement at reality, like children. 

Instead, in the search for goods more than for the good, many relied exclusively on their own strength, on the capacity to produce and earn”, wrote the cardinal.

It is for this reason that Jesus’s invitation to become like children (Mt 18:3) comes to mind as amazement “sets life in motion, allowing it to start again in any circumstance,” wrote Cardinal Parolin.

The world in the face of COVID

Cardinal Parolin pointed out that in recent months “we have experienced that dimension of amazement that takes the form of compassion in the presence of suffering, fragility and the precariousness of existence.”

This “noble human feeling,” he explained, has taken many forms, including the “strenuous dedication and loving commitment” of doctors and nurses; the dedication of teachers to adapt to the difficulties of distance learning to finish the school year, and the discovery of many of “the strength to face discomfort and difficulties” precisely “in the faces and presence of their families.”

In this sense, the theme of the meeting is a call to “descend into the depths of the human heart by means of amazement,” Cardinal Parolin wrote.

“Amazement”, he added, “is the way to grasp the signs of the sublime, that is, of that mystery that constitutes the root and foundation of all things.”

If this type of vision is not cultivated, the cardinal warned, “one becomes blind to existence, closed within oneself, attracted by what is fleeting, and stops questioning reality.”

Beauty in art

Cardinal Parolin recalled that Pope Francis recently received a letter from several artists who thanked him for praying for them during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on May 7.

On that occasion, the Pope said: “Artists make us understand what beauty is, and without beauty the Gospel cannot be understood.” 

In that regard, Cardinal Parolin said the Rimini Meeting launches a challenge to Christians to witness the profound attraction that faith exercises by virtue of its beauty.

This, according to the Servant of God Luigi Giussani, is the “attraction of Jesus.”

And, as Pope Francis stresses in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (167), “every expression of true beauty can thus be acknowledged as a path leading to an encounter with the Lord Jesus… so a formation in the via pulchritudinis ought to be part of our effort to pass on the faith.”

Pope Francis, therefore, invited participants in the Rimini Meeting “to collaborate with him in witnessing to the experience of the beauty of God who became flesh so that our eyes may marvel at his face and our eyes may find in him the wonder of living.”

“Is this not perhaps… the greatest contribution that Christians can make to support people’s hope? It’s a task from which we cannot exempt ourselves, especially in this hairpin turn of history. It’s the call to be transparencies of the beauty that changed life, concrete witnesses of the love that saves, especially to all those that now mainly suffer,” Cardinal Parolin wrote.

Concluding, the Vatican Secretary of State said the Pope imparts his Apostolic Blessing on the participants of the meeting and asks them to remember him in their prayers.

More papal messages, on Novena:

Pope encourages nun accompanying Trans women: “God will reward you abundantly”

Francis publishes new book of pandemic texts “to suggest keys for rebuilding a better world”, “sow hope”

Pope urges faithful to “fraternal love capable of seeing the sacred grandeur of our neighbour, of finding God in every human being”

Pope: “Prayers and little gestures sow in the field of the world the seed of God’s love which makes all things new”


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.