VATICAN CITY — In a new interview published in Argentina Sunday, Pope Francis has given a 10-point plan for happiness, which includes giving oneself to others, spending Sundays with family, helping unemployed youth find work, and letting others “live and let live.”
He also commends Sweden for giving asylum to a large number of immigrants, criticizes the destruction of the environment and stresses that peacemaking requires action, not passivity.
The first excerpts of the interview appeared as a feature article in the Argentine magazine Viva, a supplement of the popular national daily, El Clarín. It was given to mark the first 500 days of Francis’ pontificate.
The interviewer, Pablo Calvo, is an old acquaintance of the Pope. After a few reminiscences and jokes, he conveys the conviviality and common touch of the Holy Father. He also makes the point that he doesn’t avoid answering questions.
Live and Let Live
He wrote that the Pope readily gave a 10-point recipe for happiness:. “The Romans have a saying, which can be taken as a point of reference,” the Pope said. “They say: Campa e lascia campà’ (live and let live). That’s the first step to peace and happiness.”
He then went on to list the other nine, the next being “giving oneself to others.”
“If one gets tired,” he said, “one runs the risk of being egoistic, and stagnant water is the first to be corrupted.”
Third, he proposed that one “move quietly” and cited the Argentine novel Don Segundo Sombra, written by Argentine poet and novelist Ricardo Güiraldes. In Don Segundo Sombra, there is a very beautiful thing, a man who looks back on his life, the Pope says.
In his youth, the protagonist was a rocky stream that ran over everything, but as he became older, he was a running river and in old age, “quietly peaceful.” The Pope said the elderly have the wisdom to move with “kindness and humility” and have the “calmness of life.” He also repeated his concern that a people that doesn’t take care of its elderly “has no future.”
Fourth, the Pope advocated playing with children and the importance of a healthy culture of leisure, reading and enjoying art. “Consumerism has led to the anxiety of losing” this culture, he said.
Francis then recalled that when he was in Buenos Aires, he would often ask young mothers how often they play with their children.
“It was an unexpected question,” he said. “It is hard. The parents go to work and come back when the children are asleep.” But he said although it is difficult to find the time, “it must be done.”
Sundays With Family
Fifth, the Pope stressed the importance of sharing Sundays with family. He recalled that on his recent visit to Campobasso in southern Italy, the workers did not want to work on Sundays.
Sixth, he said helping young people find employment was a key to happiness. He said it’s important to be creative with them because if they lack opportunities, “they fall into drugs.” He said the rate of suicide is “very high among young people without work.”
“I read the other day, but I don’t trust it as it’s not a scientific fact, that there were 75 million young people unemployed under the age of 25,” he said. He suggested the youth could be taught skilled, apprentice work, which would allow them the “dignity of bringing home the bacon.”
For the other keys to happiness, the Pope recommended looking after nature, quickly forgetting the negative (speaking badly of others shows “low self-esteem”), respecting those who think differently and actively seeking peace.
‘We Must Cry Out for Peace’
Turning to the international situation, the Pope drew attention to the increasing number of conflicts and wars across the globe.
“War destroys,” he said. “And we must cry out for peace. Peace sometimes gives the idea of stillness, but it is never stillness. It is always an active peace.”
“I think that everyone must be committed in the matter of peace, to do everything that they can, what I can do from here,” he said. “Peace is the language we must speak.”
The Holy Father also spoke about those fleeing the horrors of war and other calamities, and how many countries are not generous in helping refugees. He said Europe fears speaking about immigration, but he praised Sweden for its policies, noting that they have allowed in as many as 800,000 immigrants in a population of 25.3 million.
The Pope also spoke about environmental issues, and how mankind continues to waste the bounty given by God. He also appeared to voice his opposition to extracting wealth from the earth at the expense of the environment. This has been taken by many to imply fracking — a controversial method of extracting gas that opponents say risks contaminating water supplies.
“When, for example, you want to make use of a mining method that extracts more than other methods, but it contaminates the water, it doesn’t matter,” he said, according to Vatican Radio’s report on the interview. “And so they go on contaminating nature. I think it’s a question that we are not facing: humanity, in its indiscriminate use of and tyranny over nature, is it committing suicide?”
The Church Grows by Attraction
In the interview, the Pope also reiterated the Church grows by attraction, not proselytizing. “The worst thing you can do is religious proselytizing, which paralyzes,” he said.
When asked by the interviewer about the possibility of winning a Nobel Prize, Pope Francis said he had not considered it, but added the pursuit of awards and doctorates were not part of his agenda.
Calvo noted in the article that Francis almost never mentioned God in the 77-minute conversation.
“He only mentioned his name on three occasions, two for the appeal to protect nature and one on reading in a loud voice the title of my book on San Lorenzo de Almagro [an Argentine soccer team]: God is a Raven,” Calvo said. “The word that Jorge Bergoglio invokes most these days is ‘peace.’”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.