Pope to DRC youth: ‘A different future is in your hands’

Pope Francis meets with young people and catechists from across the Democratic Republic of Congo, and urges them never to grow discouraged in their quest to resist corruption.

By Devin Watkins

On the third day of his Apostolic Journey to the DRC, Pope Francis held a lively encounter with young people and the local Church’s catechists.

The meeting took place in the Martyr’s Stadium in Kinshasa on Thursday morning, and the Pope thanked the Congolese youth for their shows of affection and dancing.

In his address, the Holy Father invited the young people of the Democratic Republic of Congo to look at their hands and reflected on how each finger represents a different “ingredient for the future”.

First of all, he noted, no one’s hands are the same as anyone else’s, just as each person is a unique and unrepeatable treasure. At the same time, each of us have to choose whether to clench our hand into a fist or to open it in an offering to God and others.

Congolese faithful hold their hands open at the Pope's invitation
Congolese faithful hold their hands open at the Pope's invitation

Living prayer

Our thumb, said Pope Francis, is closest to our heart and therefore symbolizes prayer, which provides the driving force for our life.

Prayer, he added, is the basic ingredient for our future, and we need to listen to the word of God and cultivate a “living prayer” in order to grow inwardly.

“Jesus has triumphed over evil. He made of His cross the bridge to the resurrection. So, raise your hands to Him daily, praise Him and bless Him.”

We should speak to Jesus as our best friend, entrust our fears to Him, and tell Him the “deepest secrets of your life,” added the Pope.

“God loves this kind of living, concrete and heartfelt prayer,” he said. “It allows Him to intervene, to enter into your daily life in a special way, to come with his ‘power of peace’,” which is the Holy Spirit.

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Pope Francis then turned to the index finger, which represents “the community”.

He urged the young people of DR Congo not to isolate themselves from one another but to embrace those around them who seem lonely or are suffering.

The Pope offered the negative examples of drug-use or witchcraft, which makes the addict feel all-powerful but in reality ends up depriving the person of everything they hold dear.

Social media, he added, can also disorient those who spend excessive amounts of time scrolling or swiping. “Nothing can ever be a replacement for the energy that we get from being together, the sparkle in our eyes, the joy of exchanging ideas!” he said.

Rather, young Congolese are called to build community, champion fraternity, and dream of a more united world.

“I know you have repeatedly shown that, even at great sacrifice, you are ready to stand up to defend human rights and the hope of a better future for everyone in the country.”

Pope Francis smiles at the meeting with young people
Pope Francis smiles at the meeting with young people

Honesty to combat corruption

Honesty, said the Pope, offers the third ingredient for a better future, and provides an antidote to the “cancer of corruption”.

Speaking off-the-cuff, Pope Francis launched a heartfelt appeal for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo to refuse any form of corruption, urging, in French, "say no to corruption!"

“Do not be overcome by evil," he said. "Overcome evil with good.” he said.

The Pope recalled a 26-year-old young man, Floribert Bwana Chui, who was killed 15 years ago in Goma for having blocked the passage of spoiled foodstuffs which would have harmed people's health. The young Christian man, said the Pope, prayed for guidance and said no to the "filth of corruption."

“If someone offers you a bribe, or promises you favours and lots of money, do not fall into the trap. Do not be deceived! Do not be sucked into the swamp of evil!”

Forgiveness to not repeat the past

The Pope turned to the ring finger, symbolizing “forgiveness”, and recalled that all the greatest goods in our life involve "weakness, weariness, and hardship." 

"Forgiveness," he said, "means being able to start over. To forgive does not mean forgetting the past; it means refusing to repeat it."

Service in littleness

Pope Francis noted that the pinky finger is our last and smallest finger, and represents our “service”.

Our actions for others, he said, often seem like a drop in the ocean, but “it is precisely littleness, our decision to become little, that attracts God.”

Refuse to grow discouraged

In conclusion, the Pope urged young Congolese Catholics to work for a better future in their nation by reflecting frequently on these five ingredients: prayer, community, honesty, forgiveness, and service.

“Never grow discouraged!”

Kinshasa, Meeting with young people and catechists

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02 February 2023, 10:33