VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis on Wednesday (Sept. 2) told his followers to clamber down from their lofty skyscrapers, reclaim public spaces and rejoin communities.
Speaking at his weekly public audience at the Vatican, the pope said it was up to families to rejuvenate cities.
There may be a lot of ways to spend one’s free time in a city, but love is missing, Francis said.
“The smile of a family is capable of overcoming this desertification of our cities. And this is the victory of the love of a family,” he told followers in St. Peter’s Square.
No feat of engineering or politics is able to substitute the contribution made by families to a city, the pontiff added.
“We must come down from the towers and the armored rooms of the elite, to once again frequent the houses and open spaces of the masses, open to the love of the family,” Francis said.
Francis has followed his own example by refusing to live in the papal palace and instead taking up modest quarters inside a Vatican guest house and sharing meals with other Vatican workers.
His remarks Wednesday echo comments made in his encyclical on the environment, in which he lamented the growth of chaotic megacities that breed anonymity.
“In the unstable neighborhoods of mega-cities, the daily experience of overcrowding and social anonymity can create a sense of uprootedness which spawns antisocial behavior and violence,” he wrote in the papal letter, telling city planners to put more focus on people than on design.
During the pope’s weekly audience, Francis also marked the anniversary of the end of World War II in the Far East. “No more war!” the pope said, drawing on the suffering of persecuted Christians and minorities, the “folly of destruction” and the arms trade.
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