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Pope Francis advised on Monday that people should not be “afraid of tattoos,” and urged that everyone should be open to cultural expressions of “belonging.”

Yulian Vendzilovych, a seminarian at Holy Spirit Seminary in Lviv, Ukraine, asked the pope about tattoos and other expressions of modern culture. In response, Francis contended that “the problem is the exaggeration, not the tattoos.”

According to Breitbart, Vendzilovych told Francis that some people get tattoos to express beauty, and others as a cultural symbol, but asserted that it is difficult for a young priest to judge which parts of modern culture are good and which are not.

“Don’t be afraid of tattoos,” the pope said, noting that for many years Eritrean Christians and others have gotten tattoos of the cross on their foreheads.

“Of course, there can be exaggerations,” the pope said, noting that those who get too many tattoos are prohibited from donating blood because of a “danger of blood poisoning.”

Francis called a tattoo “a sign of belonging” that offers an opportunity to initiate a conversation with young people about what is important to them “and then you can enter into the culture of the young.”

“But do not panic,” he said. “With young people you should never be frightened, never! Because always, even behind the not-so-good things, there is something that will get us to some truth.”

Pope Francis has often offered opinions on issues affecting young people and modern culture.

Last March, Francis cautioned youth to beware of the falsehoods behind much of social media and “reality shows,” imploring them to live their own lives and to create their own histories.

“Yet our memories should not remain crammed together, like the memory of a hard drive,” Francis said for World Youth Day 2017. “Nor can we archive everything in some sort of virtual ‘cloud.’ We need to learn how to make past events a dynamic reality on which to reflect and to draw lessons and meaning for the present and the future.”

Francis warned that virtual friendships and virtual reality often conceal many falsehoods and cannot substitute for genuine interpersonal experiences.

“In the social media, we see faces of young people appearing in any number of pictures recounting more or less real events, but we don’t know how much of all this is really ‘history,’ an experience that can be communicated and endowed with purpose and meaning,” Francis said.

Francis has extensively used social media during his five-year pontificate, yet continues to remain skeptical of its real influence.

Yet in spite of his own success with social media, he remains skeptical of its real influence.

“Television is full of ‘reality shows’ which are not real stories, but only moments passed before a television camera by characters living from day to day, without a greater plan,” Francis said. “Don’t let yourselves be led astray by this false image of reality! Be the protagonists of your history; decide your own future.”

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