The Pope addresses young people on Copacabana Beach (AP)
Vatican City, 26 July 2013 (VIS) – One million young people on the beach at Copacabana greeted the Pope yesterday afternoon (6 p.m. local time, 9 p.m. Rome time) at his first encounter with the young of the carioco capital and with the participants in World Youth Day. For this event, a gigantic stage had been built, inspired by the irregular outline of the mountains of Rio de Janeiro, defined by their author as “a sculpture of four thousand square metres” and with four platforms of various heights, linked by steps. A maxi-screen behind the Holy Father enabled those who were far from the stage to see and hear him. Before the beginning of the meeting, there was a performance entitled ‘Rio of Faith’ in which 150 young people expressed the daily life of the city. Following greetings from Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta, the Holy Father addressed the crowd.
“In you I see the beauty of Christ’s young face and I am filled with joy”, he exclaimed, and he spoke of his memories of the first World Youth Day, celebrated in 1987 in Argentina, in his home city Buenos Aires. He invited the crowd to observe a moment of silence and to pray for Sophie Morinière, the young French girl killed in the road accident in French Guiana, for other young people wounded, and for their families.
“This year, World Youth Day comes to Latin America for the second time”, he continued. “And you, young people, have responded in great number to the invitation extended by Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate this occasion. We express to him our heartfelt thanks. To he who has brought us together today, let us send our greetings and applause. You know that before coming to Brazil I spoke with him, and I asked him to accompany me … in prayer. And he said to me: I will accompany you in prayer and will stay close to the television. So, in this moment, he is watching us! I am looking at the large crowd before me – there are so many of you! And you have come from every continent! In many cases you have come from afar, not only geographically, but also existentially, culturally, socially and humanly. But today you are all here, or better yet, we are all here together as one, in order to share the faith and the joy of an encounter with Christ, of being His disciples. This week Rio has become the centre of the Church, its heart both youthful and vibrant, because you have responded generously and courageously to the invitation that Christ has made to you to be with Him and to become His friends”.
“The train of this World Youth Day has come from afar and has travelled across all of Brazil following the stages of the project entitled ‘Bota fé – put on faith!’ Today the train has arrived at Rio de Janeiro. From Corcovado, Christ the Redeemer embraces us and blesses us. Looking out to this sea, the beach and all of you gathered here, I am reminded of the moment when Jesus called the first disciples to follow Him by the shores of Lake Tiberias. Today Christ asks each of us again: Do you want to be my disciple? Do you want to be my friend? Do you want to be a witness to my Gospel? In the spirit of The Year of Faith, these questions invite us to renew our commitment as Christians. Your families and local communities have passed on to you the great gift of faith, Christ has grown in you. Today He wishes to come here to confirm you in this faith, faith in the living Christ Who dwells within you, but I too have also come to be confirmed by the enthusiasm of your faith! You know that in the life of a bishop there are many problems that need to be solved. And with these problems and difficulties, the life of a bishop can become sad. What a sorry thing, a sad bishop! I have come here for your contagious enthusiasm, so that my faith will not be sad!”
The Holy Father then received greetings from five young people representing all five continents, and following the reading from the Gospel of St. Luke, which narrates the transfiguration episode, Francis again addressed those present.
“’It is good for us to be here!’, Peter cries out after seeing the Lord Jesus transfigured in glory. Can we repeat these words with him? I think the answer is yes, because here today, it is good for all of us to be gathered together around Jesus! It is He Who welcomes us and Who is present in our midst here in Rio. In the Gospel we have heard God the Father say: ‘This is my Son, my chosen one; listen to Him!’. If it is Jesus Who welcomes us, we too ought to welcome Him and listen to His words; it is precisely through the welcome we give to Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, that the Holy Spirit transforms us, lights up our way to the future, and enables us joyfully to advance along that way with wings of hope”.
“But what can we do?” asked the Pope; he answered, “’Bota fé – put on faith’. The World Youth Day Cross has proclaimed these words throughout its pilgrimage in Brazil. ‘Put on faith’: what does this mean? When we prepare a plate of food and we see that it needs salt, well, we ‘put on’ salt; when it needs oil, then you ‘put on’ oil. ‘To put on’, that is, to place on top of, to pour over. And so it is in our life, dear young friends: if we want it to have real meaning and fulfilment, as you want and as you deserve, I say to each one of you, ‘Put on faith’, and your life will take on a new flavour, your life will have a compass to show you the way; ‘put on hope’ and every one of your days will be enlightened and your horizon will no longer be dark, but luminous; ‘put on love’, and your life will be like a house built on rock, your journey will be joyful, because you will find many friends to journey with you. Put on faith, put on hope, put on love!”
“But who can give us all this? In the Gospel we hear the answer: Christ” the Pope emphasised. “Jesus is the one who brings God to us and us to God. With Him, our life is transformed … For this reason, I want to say to each of you today: ‘Put on Christ!’ in your life, and you will find a friend in whom you can always trust; ‘put on Christ’ and you will see the wings of hope spreading and letting you journey with joy towards the future; ‘put on Christ’ and your life will be full of His love; it will be a fruitful life”.
He continued, “Today, it benefits all of us to ask sincerely: in whom do we place our trust? In ourselves, in material things, or in Jesus? We are all often tempted to put ourselves at the centre, to think that we alone build our lives or that our life can only be happy if built on possessions, money, or power. But it is not so. Certainly, possessions, money and power can give a momentary thrill, the illusion of being happy, but they end up possessing us and making us always want to have more, never satisfied. And we end up being ‘full’, but not satisfied, and it is very sad to see youth full but weak. … ‘Put on Christ’ in your life, place your trust in Him and you will never be disappointed! You see, dear friends, how faith accomplishes a revolution in us, one which we can call Copernican; it removes us from the centre and puts God in the centre; faith immerses us in His love and gives us security, strength, and hope. To all appearances, it seems that nothing has changed; yet, in the depths of our being, everything is different. Peace, consolation, gentleness, courage, serenity and joy, which are all fruits of the Holy Spirit, find a home in our heart, so our very being is transformed; our way of thinking and acting is made new, it becomes Jesus’ own, God’s own, way of thinking and acting. Dear friends, faith is revolutionary and today I ask you: are you willing … to enter into this revolutionary wave of faith? Only by entering into this wave will your young lives acquire meaning and thus become fruitful!”
“Dear young people, dear young people: ‘Put on Christ’ in your lives. In these days, Christ awaits you in His word; listen carefully to Him and your heart will be filled with enthusiasm by His presence; ‘Put on Christ’ He awaits you in the sacrament of Penance, to heal by His mercy all the wounds caused by sin. Do not be afraid to ask God’s forgiveness, because He never tires of forgiving us, like a father who loves us. God is pure mercy! ‘Put on Christ’: He is waiting for you also in the Eucharist, the sacrament of His presence and His sacrifice of love, and also in the humanity of the many young people who will enrich you with their friendship, encourage you by their witness to the faith, and teach you the language of love, goodness and service. You too, dear young people, can be joyful witnesses of His love, courageous witnesses of His Gospel, carrying to this world a ray of His light”.
“It is good for us to be here”, putting on Christ in our lives, putting on the faith, hope and love which He gives us. Dear friends, in this celebration we have welcomed the image of Our Lady of Aparecida. With Mary, we ask her to teach us how to follow Jesus, to teach us to how to be disciples and missionaries”, concluded the Pope, who then prayed the Our Father and blessed all those present, before returning to the Sumare residence where he spent the night.