Pope Francis has sent a video message to young people registered for World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, on 1-6 August, and urges them to prepare themselves to encounter others and grow in hope.
In his video message, the Pope praised the excitement the young Catholics must feel as they prepare to travel. “I can imagine the things you must have on your mind,” he said, “how you’re going to: make it happen, request your work or study permit, get what you need for your trip, so many concerns!”
At the same time, the Pope urged the young people to “look toward the horizon” by using their excitement and hope as a stepping stone. He acknowledged that taking part in WYD is “a beautiful thing” built on the hope of events that will unfold. “Prepare yourselves with that enthusiasm,” he told the young people. “Have hope, because one grows a lot at an event like WYD.”
They may not realize it yet, he said, but the young people can expect to discover wonderful new things as they meet people from other parts of the world and build relationships founded on common values.
The Pope said the Church is blessed to enjoy the “strength of youth”, and so he encouraged participants in WYD to prepare well for what lies ahead. He also shared with them a “secret” for proper preparation.
“In order to prepare well” – he said – “it helps to look to your roots by meeting with your elders”, such as grandparents. Participants in the upcoming WYD in Lisbon should ask their grandparents: “What do you think I must do?” Our elders concluded Pope Francis, “will give you wisdom.”
And finally, he wrapped up his video message by encouraging the young people to “strive ahead”, saying he is looking forward to encountering them in Lisbon.
Meanwhile, in a preface of a new book, ‘A Long Journey to Lisbon,’ by Aura Miguel, a Portuguese journalist for Rádio Renascença, Pope Francis said that since World Youth Days were established by St. John Paul II in 1985, “they have involved, moved, stirred and challenged generations of women and men.”
The initial intuition that inspired St. John Paul “has not faded,” Pope Francis wrote, as today’s world, especially its young people, is facing enormous changes and challenges.
Young people, he pointed out, “risk self-isolation every day, living in a virtual environment much of their life, ending up as prey to an aggressive market that creates false needs.”
“Getting out of the house, heading out with fellow travellers, having important experiences of listening and prayer combined with moments of celebration, and doing it together, makes these moments precious for everybody’s life,” he wrote.
“We really need young people who are at the ready, eager to respond to God’s dream, to care about others, young people who discover the joy and beauty of a life spent for Christ in service to others, to the poorest, to the suffering,” the pope said.
Pope Francis repeated his call to young people not to live life “standing on a balcony watching life go by,” avoiding getting involved and getting their hands dirty, putting a screen between them and the rest of the world.
“Many times, I have told (young people) not to be ‘couch potatoes,’ not to be ‘anesthetized’ by people who benefit from having them ‘dumb and numb,'” he wrote.
Being young is the time for dreaming, the pope said, and for being open to the real world, “discovering what is really worthwhile in life, struggling to conquer it; it is opening oneself to deep and true relationships, it is engaging with others and for others.”
But he wrote in the preface, the world is facing so many challenges: the pandemic has shown that “we can only save ourselves together”; there is “the vortex of war and rearmament”; the arms race “seems unstoppable and threatens to lead us to self-destruction”; there is the war in Ukraine; and many wars and conflicts continue to be forgotten, “so much unspeakable violence continues to be perpetrated.”
How are young people to respond, the pope asked? “What are they being called to do with their energy, their vision of the future, their enthusiasm?”
“They are called to say, ‘We care.’ We care about what is happening in the world” and about “the fate of millions of people, of so many children, who have no water, no food, no medical care, while the rulers seem to be competing to see who can spend the most on the most sophisticated armaments,” he wrote. “We care about everything,” including all of creation and the digital world, “which we are challenged to change and make more and more humane.”
“World Youth Days have been an antidote to life on a balcony, to the anaesthesia that makes people prefer the couch, to disinterest,” Pope Francis said in the preface.
“WYD is an event of grace that awakens, broadens horizons, strengthens the heart’s aspirations, helps people dream, to look ahead,” he concluded “It is a planted seed that can bear good fruit.” (Photo: JMJ Lisboa 2023)