Today, His Holiness Pope Francis joined President Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) 2023 Meeting for a conversation via remote link.
During the conversation, His Holiness Pope Francis and President Clinton discussed the urgent need to act on climate change, our collective responsibility to come together in the face of difficulty, the work of the Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital, and more.
Please find the full transcript of the conversation below.
The Pope is with us today. Holy Father, we are so honored to have you join us at CGI this year. You’re speaking to a room full of people from all over the world, from all walks of life, who, each in their own way, are trying to follow the admonition of Isaiah, who told us we had to be repairers of the breach.
They know our world is broken in many ways, but also full of many possibilities, and they’re trying to make the most of their ability to make a difference. I thought it would be interesting given our wonderful meeting a few weeks ago, if you could say what you believe about the obligations of ordinary people to make a difference, to deal with these big challenges that are so big that no person, no matter how wealthy or powerful, no person can believe that he or she could do them alone. What are ordinary people supposed to do with their days that will make our societies better or our problems less severe?
Thank you, Mr. President, for inviting me to your meeting. Thank you very much. It is important to spread a culture of encounter, a culture of dialogue, a culture of listening and of understanding. It is necessary to share thoughts on how to contribute to the common good and how not to leave behind the most vulnerable people such as children, who through the foundation, the patrons of Bambino Gesù, are at the root of this meeting. We all know it. We are living through a changing epoch. Only together can we emerge from it better. Together. Only together can we heal the world from the globalization of indifference.
You, Mr. President, have listed the many challenges of our time: climate change, humanitarian crises affecting migrants and refugees and childcare and many others. I would add to this, the wind of war that blows around the world fueling with the spirit of war, what I have repeatedly called the Third World War, but peaceful. We are in need of a great and shared assumption of responsibility. No challenge is too great if we meet it, starting with personal conversion, the personal conversion of each of us, the personal contribution that each of us can make to solve it, and from an awareness of what it is that makes us part of one destiny.
No challenge can be overcome alone, not alone, moving together, sisters and brothers, children of God. This is why I always encourage, and I want to do so here as well, all women and men of goodwill not to give up in the face of difficulties. Difficulties are part of life and the best way to deal with them is to always seek the calming good, never alone, always together. Difficulties can bring out the best or the worst in us. Therein lies our challenge, fighting selfishness, narcissism, division with generosity and humility. Better unity than conflict. It is time to find the path of peace, the change for fraternity. It is time for weapons to cease and for us to return to dialogue. Let the designs of conquest and military aggression cease. That is why I repeat, no to war, no to war. It’s time to work together to stop the ecological catastrophe before it’s too late.
That’s why I’ve chosen to write a new document ten years after the publication of the encyclical Laudato si’. Let us stop while there is still time. Please, please let us stop while there is still time. It’s time to face migration emergencies. Remembering that we are not talking about numbers, but about people: men, women, and children. When we talk about migration, let’s think about the eyes of the children we’ve seen in refugee camps. It’s time to think about the youngest, the children, and of their education and to their care. As you know, Mr. President, this meeting of ours stems from a great small project that I care about very much. It is about children and their health. In Italy, in Rome, near the Vatican, there’s a very special hospital: the Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital. In the world, it is known as the Pope hospital, but to me, that’s not why it is unique. It is evident that our great little hospital cannot solve the problems of all the children in the world. However, it seeks to be a sign, a testimony that it is possible through many struggles to bring together great scientific research geared toward caring for children and the gratuitous welcoming of people in need, science and hospitality. Rarely are these two things found together.
The hospital welcomes children here in the Vatican. Two or three times, a helicopter has arrived with children who need urgent help from different parts of the world. In these terrible months marked by war, the Bambino Gesù Hospital has treated more than two thousand small, young patients of Ukraine who escaped from their country with various relatives. The healthcare sector today, more than ever, the first and most concrete form of charity is science. The capacity to care, which however must be accessible to all. Bambino Gesù Hospital is a concrete sign of charity and mercy of the church. There are illnesses that cannot be cured, but there are no children who cannot be cared for. Let’s keep this in mind. There are illnesses that cannot be cured, but there are no children who cannot be cared for. This is the distinctive feature of the hospital. Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you all and I wish you all a nice day.
Thank you so much. It’s wonderful to see you again and hear you in such great voice, and thank you for saying something that I hope will mean something to every person because one of the things that we try to do, which is difficult enough in any form of life, but especially in public life, is to convince every person that he or she has a role to play without regard to their age or their standing. And I think you make us all feel empowered. And perhaps that is your greatest power as the Pope that you make everybody, even people who aren’t members of the Roman Catholic Church, feel that they have power and therefore they have responsibility. It’s an extraordinary gift, and I thank you for that. I know you have a busy day, but I wonder if there’s anything else you want to say. I thank you for what you said about the children and what you said about climate change. Do you have any other message for us before you go, anything you want to make sure we take to heart?
Both things, children and climate change. Please on climate change, let us take action before it’s too late.
Thank you very much.