Pope Francis Warns Youth Not to Be ‘Prisoners’ of Their Cell Phones

People take photos of Pope Francis (Rear L) with their smartphone as he arrives for an audience with students and teachers of Roma's LUMSA Catholic University, on November 14, 2019 at Paul-VI hall in the Vatican. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP) (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images)
ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty

ROME — Pope Francis urged young people Monday to take some time away from cell phones and social media to get out and meet other people in person.

On the final day of his visit to Cyprus and Greece before returning to Rome, the pope met with youth at the St. Dionysius School in Athens, exhorting them not to “settle for posting a few posts or tweets.”

“Don’t settle for virtual encounters, look for real ones, especially with those who need you,” the pontiff told them, while encouraging them not to waste time looking for “visibility.”

“This is original, revolutionary,” he declared. “To go out of yourself to meet the other. But if you live as a prisoner in yourself, you will never meet the other, you will never know what it is to serve. Serving is the most beautiful, greatest gesture a person can make.”

Human beings need real, interpersonal contact, the pope insisted, that cannot be achieved virtually.

A woman takes a selfie photo with her smartphone as Pope Francis (Rear C) arrives to celebrate a mass as part of World Youth Day on November 21, 2021 at St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican. (VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images)

“Many today are very into social media but not very sociable,” he asserted. “Closed in on themselves, they are prisoners of the cell phone they hold in their hand.”

“On the screen the other is missing,” he continued. “His eyes, his breath, his hands are missing.”

“The screen easily becomes a mirror, where you think you are facing the world, but in reality you are alone, in a virtual world full of appearances, of photos made up to always look beautiful and fit,” he warned.

“How nice it is to be with others, to discover the newness of the other! To talk with each other, cultivate the mystique of the whole, the joy of sharing, the ardor of serving!” he exclaimed.

On Monday, the pope wrapped up his six-day journey to Cyprus and Greece, where he repeatedly urged leaders to be welcoming to migrants.

Soon after his meeting with young people, Francis was taken to the airport where he boarded his ITA Airways flight back to Rome, the pontiff’s first voyage with the newly constituted Italian airline.

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