His message was three-fold. Firstly he spoke about the interconnectedness of all people and indeed of the whole of creation – a teaching found in all of the world religions and now shown to be part of reality through our new understandings of science. He said” we all need each other, none of us is an island, an autonomous and independent "I," separated from the other, and we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone. We don’t think about it often, but everything is connected, and we need to restore our connections to a healthy state”.
His second point was about solidarity which he described as “a free response from the heart of each and everyone” that allows us to see others, especially those most in need of help, as persons and not statistics. “The other has a face. The “you” is always a real presence, a person to take care of”. It is this care for each other, the Pope suggests, that will make each of us a bright candle shining through the darkness of today’s conflicts. This was a message of hope – not a naïve optimism as the Pope said, but a virtue of the heart that refuses to lock itself into darkness. “A single individual is enough for hope to exist and that individual can be you. And then there will be another “you” and another “you” and it turns into an “us” And so does hope begin when we have an “us?” No. Hope begins with one “you.” When there is an “us” there begins a revolution.
And the revolution? – A revolution of tenderness, a path not for the weak but for the strong and courageous. “And what is tenderness? It is the love that comes close and becomes real. it is a movement that starts from our heart and reaches the eyes, the ears and the hands. Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, or ears to hear the other, to listen to the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future. To listen to the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth.”
It’s this revolution of tenderness that has stayed with me – a love that comes close and becomes real. Solidarity, interconnectedness, hope are good religious and human values and we hear quite a lot about them today but I’m not sure I’ve heard about a revolution of tenderness. However a trawl through the internet showed that Cardinal Walter Kasper had written a book entitled ‘Pope Francis’ Revolution of Tenderness and Love’ to mark the second anniversary of his election as Pope and the Pope has talked of tenderness in homilies so it’s not new. There’s a lot about tenderness in religion - God’s steadfast love for his creation, our love for God who is Love itself, as it says in the Christian tradition, and closer to us than our jugular vein as in the Muslim tradition. Mystics in all the world religions have expressed their love for God in moving and passionate poetry but this revolution of tenderness is one that’s for everyone whether we are religious or not. It’s practical, it’s real. It’s one that breaks down barriers between human beings, that influences the way we relate to one another. Tenderness is a lovely word. It conjures up the unconditional love of a parent for a child, the care and concern for someone ill and suffering, the patience with those younger and less experienced. It’s non-judgemental and concerned for the good of others. We’re lucky if we’ve been the recipient of a tender look from someone who loves us and we know how good that feels. How difficult would it be to look upon others with tenderness? If we could do it, it would indeed be the basis of a revolution that could change the world. Just imagine how the world would look if we related with tenderness at a personal, national and international level? It’s a wonderful thought and surely not beyond the reach of any of us?