(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis joined hundreds of thousands of young people for a lively song and prayer fest on Rio de Janeiro’s famous Copacobana beach on Thursday. It was his first official encounter with young people as part of World Youth Day celebrations in Brazil.
It would have been easy (and, I admit, it was tempting) to draw comparisons between the sea of young people and the ocean of water beside which they were gathered, to compare the roar of the waves with the waving, roaring crowd – and to make the inevitable links with biblical symbols involving water, seas…and fishermen.
It would have been enlightening (if you like that sort of thing) to concentrate on the numbers, which were certainly impressive: 175 countries, 1,000 Bishops, 300 performers and, most important of all, over a million people…not all of them young.
It would have been entertaining (but unnecessary) to search for superlatives with which to describe Pope Francis’ first encounter with young people from every corner of the globe during the so-called welcoming celebration that effectively marks the first of main World Youth Day events…and his own first WYD.
It would have been excessive (and repetitive) to complain about the rain, yet again… and to describe how the weather blew out the communications links for several interminable minutes.
It would have been instructive (and important) to comment on each of the improvised additions Pope Francis made to his prepared discourse: “Young people are stronger than the rain”, he said…”Benedict is watching you, he accompanies us with his prayers”, he confided…”Faith revolutionizes our lives”, he stressed…
Doubtless, all this would have guaranteed a much more interesting correspondent’s report – but it wouldn’t have communicated any of the beauty and the poetry of the occasion, the sounds and the colours, the songs and the choreographies, the expressions of Pope Francis as he drove through the throng exchanging gestures, emotions, and even his zucchetto. Unfortunately, there are limitations to being a correspondent and to writing reports. I hope you understand.
SHARED FROM RADIO VATICANA
POPE FRANCIS ON BEACH WITH YOUTH
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis greeted young pilgrims taking part in World Youth Day celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Thursday. The sprawling sands of Rio’s famous Copacabana beach was the scene of the gathering, which was the first official encounter of pilgrims with the Holy Father during the week of events leading to the 28th World Youth Day on Sunday, July 28th.
The Copacabana appointment opened with an extraordinary display by 150 young people who offered an artistic interpretation of daily life in the “Marvelous City”. The festivities centered on a prayer service that included a reading from the Gospel according to St. Luke, which recounts the episode of the Transfiguration (9:28-36). Prayers of the faithful were offered, as well as testimonies from five young people representing every inhabited continent.
In brief words of greeting to the young people, Pope Francis expressed his joy at being able to celebrate with them, and made his own the hopeful words of encouragement spoken by Bl. John Paul II at the 1987 World Youth Day in his native Buenos Aires, “I have great hope in you! I hope above all that you will renew your fidelity to Jesus Christ and to his redeeming Cross.”
Following the Gospel reading, the Holy Father delivered a homily in which he focused on the twin themes of faith in and faithfulness to Christ, in spiritual commitment and the discipleship of everyday life. As he has since the very beginning of his pontificate, Francis spoke of the spirit of adventure the imbues a life given over to Christ, and renewed his call never to tire of asking God’s forgiveness when there is need of it in one’s life.
Below, please find the full texts of Pope Francis’ greeting and homily:
Words of greeting from Pope Francis to WYD pilgrims
Thursday, July 25th, 2013
Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro
Dear Young Friends,
Good evening! In you I see the beauty of Christ’s young face and I am filled with joy. I recall the first World Youth Day on an international level. It was celebrated in 1987 in Argentina, in my home city of Buenos Aires. I still cherish the words of Blessed John Paul II to the young people on that occasion: “I have great hope in you! I hope above all that you will renew your fidelity to Jesus Christ and to his redeeming Cross” (Address to Young People, Buenos Aires, 11 April 1987).
Before I continue, I would like to call to mind the tragic accident in French Guiana in which young Sophie Morinière was killed and other young people were wounded. I invite all of you to observe a minute’s silence and to pray for Sophie, for the wounded, and for their families.
This year, World Youth Day comes to Latin America for the second time. 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. 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. I have come today to confirm you in this faith, faith in the living Christ who dwells within you, but I have also come to be confirmed by the enthusiasm of your faith!
I greet you with great affection. To all of you assembled here from the five continents and, through you, to all young people of the world, and in particular to those who have not been able to come to Rio de Janeiro but who are following us by means of radio, television and internet, I say: Welcome to this immense feast of faith! In several parts of the world, at this very moment, many young people have come together to share this event: let us all experience the joy of being united with each other in friendship and faith. And be sure of this: my pastoral heart embraces all of you with universal affection. From the summit of the mountain of Corcovado, Christ the Redeemer welcomes you to this beautiful city of Rio!
I wish to extend greetings to the President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the dear and tireless Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko, and to all who work with him. I thank Archbishop Orani João Tempesta, of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, for the warm welcome given to me and for the considerable work of preparation for this World Youth Day, together with the many Dioceses of this vast country of Brazil. I would also like to express my gratitude to all the national, state and local authorities and to those who have worked to make possible this unique moment of celebration of unity, faith and fraternity. Thank you to my brother Bishops, to the priests, seminarians, consecrated persons and the lay faithful that have accompanied the young from various parts of the world on their pilgrimage to Jesus. To each and every one of you I offer my affectionate embrace in the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, dear friends, welcome to the XXVIII World Youth Day in this marvellous city of Rio de Janeiro!
In off the cuff remarks during his greeting Pope Francis revealed he had Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to accompany him in prayer to Rio and the Holy Father said Pope Benedict accepted this request with joy and is now in front of his TV watching this event.
During his greeting he also added, that Bishops sometimes have problems that make them sad. How terrible, a sad Bishop, he exclaimed, "and why am I not sad," because he said, he had come to be infected by the spirit of the young people at World Youth Day.
Homily of Pope Francis
Copacabana prayer service
July 25th, 2013
Rio de Janeiro
“It is good for us to be here!”, Peter cries out after seeing the Lord Jesus transfigured in glory. Do we want to 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!” (Lk 9:35). 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 (cf. Lumen Fidei, 7).
But what can we do? “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, it 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 have just heard the answer: Christ. “This is my Son, my chosen one. Listen to him!” Jesus is the one who brings God to us and us to God. With him, our life is transformed and renewed, and we can see reality with new eyes, from Jesus’ standpoint, with his own eyes (cf. Lumen Fidei, 18). For this reason, I want to insist with 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.
Today, I would like each of us to ask sincerely: in whom do we place our trust? In ourselves, in material things, or in Jesus? We are all 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. “Put on Christ” in your life, place your trust in him and you will never be disappointed! You see how faith accomplishes a revolution in us, one which we can call Copernican, because it removes us from the centre and restores it to God; faith immerses us in his love and gives us security, strength, and hope. To all appearances, 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 (cf. Gal 5:22), find a home in our heart, and 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. During the Year of Faith, this World Youth Day is truly a gift offered to us to draw us closer to the Lord, to be his disciples and his missionaries, to let him renew our lives.
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 warmed by his presence; “Put on Christ”: he awaits you in the sacrament of Penance, to heal by his mercy the wounds caused by sin. Do not be afraid to ask God’s forgiveness! He never tires of forgiving us, like a father who loves us. God is pure mercy! “Put on Christ”: he is waiting for you in his flesh in the Eucharist, the sacrament of his presence and his sacrifice of love, and 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 charity, 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, may we be disciples and missionaries. Like her, may we say “Yes” to God. Let us ask that her maternal heart intercede for us, so that our hearts may be open to loving Jesus and making others love him. He is waiting for us, and he is counting on us. Amen.
SHARED FROM RADIO VATICANA