‘Young People Ask Us to Help Them Write Future’

Interview with the Major Rector of the Salesians, Father Angel Fernandez Artime

Young People Future
Fr Angel Fernandez Artime in front of the statue of Don Bosco in the Generalate in via Marsala (C) Acali / Exaudi

“Young people want to have light in the future. It’s not enough to tell them how they should live. For them, hope means: you have a present, but you also have a future, you must help us to write this future.” On the sidelines of the presentation of the Don Bosco Global Youth Film Festival, the Major Rector of the Salesian Congregation, Father Angel Fernandez Artime, kindly accepted to respond to some questions of Exaudi.

Why Hold a Youth Film Festival?

 We hold it “especially because we thought, in this time that has been wearing, awful, of the pandemic, of the lockdown, to give the floor to young people They have the capacity to express themselves with any small thing. We thought that for them, music and films are two great means, and so the initiative was born. However, we wondered what the theme could be at a time when the whole world has been affected and we decided that it should be hope, young people, their vision of the present, and hope. And so we gave life to this initiative, which has had truly extraordinary participation.

The country that has participated most in it is India and Iran is in second place, before Italy and also Turkey. There are many places where our presence is very discreet or if not almost non-existent. For more than two years we have not been present in Iran, because conditions didn’t permit it, but there are young people there. This participation shows a reality of great internationality.

It was an opportunity to give a word and we believe that it is a first step to do something more mature next year.

Young people are among those that suffered the most during the pandemic. How can hope be given back to the new generations?

 We find an answer also by watching some of the films, and it is this: young people want to have light in the future. It’s not enough to tell them how they must live. Hope for them means: you have a present, but you also have a future, you must help us to write this future. For example, the answer regarding ecology is very clear: Young people have a language that is much stronger than that of our politicians. In regard to this, they want to say to us that, for them, the future is very weighty.

What was the pandemic’s impact on the Congregation and what challenges does it present to you?

A sad fact is that we lost many Salesians in the world due to COVID. A good part of them were elderly, but it’s always life. 187 fellow Salesians died from the virus. However, at the same time, the pandemic highlighted some very beautiful things. For example, the capacity to be creative. It’s impressive how with the houses empty, the oratories empty, the schools empty, many initiatives arose every day to connect with the boys and the families. This was of great value. Then the desire to share such ideas, relations, originality. And, the third thing: among us, Salesians in the world, a wonderful solidarity emerged. Promoted by us, it reached many families in 67 nations, harshly affected by the pandemic We distributed aid amounting to more than 10 million euros. It was the gentle and human face of a reality that affected us harshly so much.

A Salesian, Father Enrico Pozzoli, baptized Jorge Bergoglio and directed him in his vocation. On Friday, November 12, a book (“I Made the Pope Christian,” by Ferruccio Pallavera, Lev publishers) will be presented, which tells the story of this relationship. How much did the Salesian charism influence Bergoglio’s formation?

 Pope Francis has evidently a Jesuit formation but he knew well the Salesian charism and he has so much affection for Don Bosco, and for the mission among young people. And this is also very lovely for us.

You met him when he was Inspector in Argentina. How was, and how is, your relation with the Pontiff?

My relations are like those of many other Superiors General, except that it’s true that we met there; we saw one another in the Basilica where he was baptized. I concelebrated with him many times and this made arise what we can describe as a liking. But it’s very clear to me that Pope Francis is everyone’s Pope and we, Salesians, try to help, to always be united to the Pope, as Don Bosco wished.

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester