By Christopher Wells
Pope Francis held a special audience in the Vatican on Saturday for around 250 youths from more than 100 countries around the world. The young people were in Rome participating in the XI International Youth Forum, which focused on the theme of “Youth in action in a synodal Church”.
In his address to the young people, Pope Francis reminded them that they are the “prime protagonists of the pastoral conversion so greatly desired by the Synod Fathers”.
The experience of the disciples at Emmaus
The Holy Father took the opportunity to reflect on the experience of the disciples at Emmaus, which the October Synod on young people described as “paradigmatic for understanding Church’s mission to the young”. He said it was providential that the Solemnity of Corpus Christi occurred during the Forum. “Could it be that the Lord wanted once more to open your hearts so that he could speak to you through this page of the Gospel?” the Pope asked.
He explained that the experience of Emmaus led the disciples to continue on their journey, although it was now nighttime, illuminated by the presence of Christ “lighting up their lives”. Today, too, young people are “called to be light in the dark night” experienced by so many youths who “do not yet know the joy of new life in Jesus”.
A vital need for community
Pope Francis also emphasized the need for community, noting that the disciples who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus “felt a vital need to be with their community.” “We encounter Jesus above all in the community and on the paths of the world”, the Pope said. “The more we bring Him to others, the more we will feel His presence in our lives”. In a world with “more and more divisions,” which lead to war and enmity, young people “have to be the message of unity.”
Once again, the Pope reminded young people, “You are the today of God, the today of the Church.” “The Church needs you”, he said, “so that she can be fully herself”.
Preparing for WYD 2022 in Lisbon
Recalling the journey towards World Youth Day in Panama, Pope Francis called on young people to prepare for the next World Youth Day by meditating on two scriptural passages: Luke 7:14, “Young man, I say to you, Arise!”; and a re-working of Acts 26:16, “Stand up. I appoint you as a witness of what you have seen”. The Pope said he hopes that there will be a “harmonious connection” between the journey to the Lisbon World Youth Day, and the post-synodal journey. These verses will serve as the themes for the World Youth Days in 2020 and 2021, leading up to the international World Youth Day in Lisbon in 2022, with the theme, “Mary arose and went with haste” (Lk 1:39).
“Do not tune out the voice of God, who urges you to arise and follow the paths He has prepared for you,” Pope Francis said in conclusion. “Like Mary, and in union with her, may you daily bring to others all your love and joy”.