In a world that is becoming accustomed to a lifestyle that is less than human, characterized by “widespread indifference”, increasingly “virtual and less personal” means of communication, a shortage of firm values and a “culture of having and of appearing”, we must encourage more dialogue and listening.

This is what Pope Francis said Saturday, 11 March to the staff and volunteers of the charity hotline Telefono Amico Italia who lend a friendly ear and talk to people who are feeling depressed, suicidal, anxious or angry. Telefono Amico is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary of activity this year. The organization’s 700 volunteers, spread out across 20 locations throughout Italy, are available to listen to people’s worries and concerns from 10:00 am to midnight every day.

In his discourse to the group, the Pope said dialogue allows us to understand one another’s reciprocal needs. Firstly, he said, “it shows a great deal of respect, because it places people in an attitude of openness” to one another, in order for each to receive the best aspects of his interlocutor.

Dialogue, he continued, “is an expression of charity”, and “while not ignoring the differences” between people, it can help them seek paths forward with a view to the common good. “Through dialogue”, Pope Francis said, “we can learn to see the other not as a threat, but as a gift of God”. “Dialogue”, he added, “helps people to humanize relationships and to overcome misunderstandings”.

“If there were more dialogue – true dialogue – in families, in the workplace, in politics”, he added, “so many questions would be resolved much more easily”. The Pontiff recalled that the ability to listen to others with “patience and attention” is a basic and necessary condition of dialogue and noted that God himself presents the finest example of listening.

Departing from his prepared text, the Pontiff stressed that “to make peace in the world, the ears are missing”.

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