(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday afternoon met with members of the Pontifical Foundation ‘Scholas Occurrentes’ at the conclusion of their World Congress.
The Foundation is an international project based in Argentina that brings together schools and educational networks from different cultures and religious backgrounds.
The informal meeting, which consisted in testimonials, music, videos and a “question and answer” session between Pope Francis and those present, took place in the Vatican Synod Hall.
It came following a three-day meeting which featured representatives of the Foundation from across the globe gathered in the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican to talk on the theme: “University and School: Wall or Bridge".
Amongst the public were personalities like Salma Hayek, George Clooney and Richard Gere.
The meeting aims to mark the beginning of an interactive initiative launched by Scholas Occurentes with the creation of a website, askpopefrancis.scholasoccurrentes.org where it will be possible to put questions to Pope Francis.
This virtual exchange will result in a book, to be published by Mondadori.
During the meeting Pope Francis also received the gift of an olive tree; he autographed surfboards and of course answered questions.
One girl asked him how to make the world a better place and Francis immediately said by “lowering the level of violence”.
A young Mexican girl spoke of how she was harassed at school, another young student talked of a letter sent to her by a sister working in Africa which contained photographs of children who had been abused.
In both of these cases, said the Pope, children and adolescents suffer the same type of “cruelty,” that is why our world, he continued “needs to listen, needs gentleness, so we can all walk together”.
And warning against an increased risk of “nuclearization” in the world, the Pope said bridges must be built.
He highlighted that words are not enough saying we must also speak with gestures: “a smile, a hug, a pat on the shoulder”; “we must listen to others, ask questions, and dialogue will provide the bridge” he said.
It was observed that the Scholas Occurentes relies heavily on social networks to further this dialogue.
Other topics touched upon regarded a hashtag campaign against bullying, a series of initiatives for the protection of the environment, the use of art and sport to promote Christian values.