What did the Pope say at World Youth Day in Panama?

At the end of January I went with a group of young people from the diocese to World Youth Day in Panama. It was a truly wonderful experience. Over a period of four days the Holy Father spoke to us all – young and old. I just wanted to share with you some of his words and hope that they touch your hearts, as they did ours… 

“The culture of encounter is what makes us walk together with our differences but also with love, everyone united on the same journey … ‘true love does not eliminate legitimate differences, but harmonises them in a superior unity’ (Benedict XVI, Homily, January 25 2006.)

On the other hand, we know that the father of lies, the devil, always prefers people who are divided and quarrelling. He is the master of division, and he is afraid of people who have learned to work together. This is a criterion for distinguishing people: those who build bridges and those who build walls. The builders of walls seek to sow fear and make people afraid. But you want to be bridge builders! 

Let us aim at having a dream in common. A dream named Jesus. Do not be afraid to love, do not be afraid of this concrete love, of this love which is tender, which is service, which gives life. Think of Mary and answer: ‘I want to serve the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.’ 

Dear young friends, the most hope-filled result of this day will not be a final document, a joint letter or a programme to be carried out. The most hope-filled result of this meeting will be your faces and a prayer. ‘Lord, teach me to love as you have loved us.’ 

Only that which is loved can be saved. For this reason we’re saved by Jesus, because he loves us and can’t go against his nature. Only that which is embraced can be transformed. The Lord’s love is greater than all our problems, frailties and flaws. He always, always, always embraces us whenever we fall: he helps us to get up and get back on our feet. Because the worst fall, and pay attention to this, the worst fall, that can ruin our lives, is to remain down and not allow ourselves to be helped up. Don’t stay down.

It is impossible for us to grow unless we have strong roots to support us. And here is a question that we older people have to ask ourselves: What roots are we providing for you, what foundations are we providing for you to grow as persons? 

Dreaming of a future means learning how to answer not only the question what am I living for, but also who am I living for, the one who makes it worthwhile for me to offer my life. And that is something we, older persons, must facilitate by providing work, education, community and opportunities. Would you older persons like to look at young people with God’s eyes? 

Jesus reveals the now of God, who comes to meet us and call us to take part in his now of ‘proclaiming good news to the poor … bringing liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, setting at liberty those who are oppressed, announcing the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Lk 4:18-19). It becomes present with Jesus: it has a face, it is flesh. It is a merciful love that does not wait for ideal or perfect situations. In Jesus, the promised future begins and becomes life. When? Now. You, dear young people, are not the future. No, you are the present, you are the now of God

Brothers and sisters, the Lord and his mission are not something temporary, they are not only for World Day of Youth, they are our life today, our life of journeying ahead!

In a special way throughout these days, Mary’s fiat has been whispering like a kind of music in the background. She believed God himself and dared to say ‘yes’. May you feel that you have a mission, may you fall in love; the Lord will decide everything.

Do not forget that you are not the tomorrow; you are the now of God.

Go back to your parishes and communities, to your families and your friends, and share what you have lived, so that others can resonate with the strength and concrete enthusiasm that is yours. And with Mary, keep saying ‘yes’ to the dream that God has sown in you.

And, please, do not forget to pray for me.”

Yours in blessed hope,