Pope Francis said that mobile phones can become addictive, hindering rather than helping authentic communication, in an address to students Saturday.

“Free yourselves from your addiction to your cell phone, please!” the pope told Rome’s Visconti High School students, who met with him in the Vatican on Saturday morning.

“You surely have heard of the drama of addictions,” he said. “Addictions to activism, that keep us from feeling well unless there is a hubbub around us and many other addictions.”

“But this dependency on cell phones is very subtle, very subtle,” he added. “The mobile phone is a great help. It represents great progress and it should be used; it’s great that everyone knows how to use it. But when you become a slave to the phone, you lose your freedom.”

“Cell phones are for communicating, for communication, and it is so good for us to communicate. But be careful, there is a danger that the cell phone can become a drug and communication is reduced to mere ‘contacts.’ And life is not about ‘contacting,’ it is about communicating!”

The pope went on to encourage the students to take time out from the constant noise that surrounds them to cultivate their interiority, where the truth dwells.

“You have to look for interiority,” he said. “It is for everyone, for believers and non-believers. We all have interiority. Only in inner silence can one perceive the voice of conscience and distinguish it from the voices of selfishness and hedonism, which are different voices.”

The pontiff also returned to a favorite topic of his: an appreciation for diversity and tearing down walls between people.

“Love for one’s neighbor is fed on fantasy and always goes further, beyond walls and beyond differences,” Francis told the group, adding that it leads us to seek out those “on the margins of society.”

“Loving is not just an expression of the affective bond between a couple or a strong, beautiful and fraternal friendship,” he said. “A concrete form of love is also found in the commitment to solidarity with others, especially the poorest.”

This commitment to solidarity and openness to diversity is an important fruit of education, he said.

“The school is a forge in which we educate ourselves about inclusion, respect for diversity, and collaboration,” he said. “Inclusion and respect for diversity in order to collaborate.”

“Please don’t be afraid of diversity,” he continued. “Dialogue between different cultures and different people enriches a country, enriches the homeland and drives us forward with mutual respect. It moves us along, looking for a land for everyone, not just for some.”

“When there is no freedom there is no education, no future,” he said. “When there is no honest search for the truth but there is an imposed truth, which takes away your ability to seek the truth. There is no future: it annuls you as a person.”

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter .

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