Pope Francis asks pastors to be close to people, to listen to their difficulties in life, to understand their reality. I think this is an exhortation that should apply to everyone, but it is certain that if pastors do not live according to it, it is much more difficult for the others to succeed in this purpose. I think we have to learn to live for each other, and I feel encouraged by this insistent indication, repeated by the Pope, to go out in the streets of the world. Besides, a priest can only be a “street” priest. The same is true for Christians. Because only there we can meet the others and, through them, the presence of Jesus in our lives.
In neighbourhoods you meet many poor people, outcasts, and misfits. Yet, currently there are new marginalized, who live in loneliness even inside their families, in the workplace. Mother Teresa used to say that this is the disease of the West. There are so many people who are condemned to solitude due to their fragility; for instance the elderly. But even those desperate people, who often find themselves alone after emotional failures, overwhelmed by economic problems which often accompany these adversities.
A few weeks ago in Rome happened an incident which shocked me and raised many questions: a teacher had died at home and was found two years later. She might have been a bit ‘strange, perhaps with an eccentric character … The point is that no one noticed it and an unbearable smell began to come out of the apartment. Neighbours defended themselves, as it were, using tape to close hermetically the door of the woman. But we cannot do such things, we cannot live this way.
We must rebel against the habit of solitude. It is the consequence of many institutions which do not do what they have to do, which are not efficient; but we must learn also to take care of the difficulties of the others, because they are ours. Putting seals locks us inside. We think we solve problems, but it becomes a prison also for us. As the “walls” built for safety reasons which turn out to cage our own lives. Authentic freedom consists in the ability to open up to the others.
Mons. Matteo Maria Zuppi