Rio de Janeiro (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis was "faithful to the theme of this year's World Youth Day: Go and make disciples of all nations." Indeed, the pope repeatedly stressed "the importance of proclaiming the Gospel", pushing the Church and the faithful to become towards a greater missionary commitment," said Mgr Giuliano Frigeni, from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME).
Based in Brazil since 1979, the prelate spoke to AsiaNews about World Youth Days in Rio de Janeiro, which ended yesterday on Copacabana beach with a solemn Mass attended by three million young men and women from around the world.
Head of the Diocese of Parintins (Amazonas) since March 19, 1999, the Italian-born prelate was closely involved in the intense days of meetings, prayers and celebrations in Brazil.
"The theme that has reinvigorated us is the call for the Church to boost its missionary vocation, especially towards young people," the PIME bishop said. "The Gospel is part of that experience. For this reason, we need to go beyond ourselves, our community and country to bear witness."
Living in a society where great poverty and backwardness coexist with rich mineral wealth and natural beauty, the bishop stressed the "power of the Gospel" to "bring together people from over 180 nations, all very different from one another".
As a delegate in charge of the youth ministry for the bishops from Amazonas state, Mgr Frigeni experienced the last few days in the front row. As such, he noted the "many significant gestures" Pope Francis made towards the sick, the poor in the slums, children who "first have access to the Kingdom of Heaven" as well as his last meeting before leaving for Italy, not with bishops or political and economic leaders, but "with the volunteers who worked on preparing and making World Youth Days happen."
In addition to his gestures, the pope's messages deeply struck the Amazonas bishop, such as the importance of "looking at reality with eyes that love," the profound value "of hope" at a time of economic, moral, and spiritual crisis, and that of freedom. The Pope "wants people to be free and be free himself . . . to move in risky areas or situations."
Despite being surrounded by millions of believers, said Mgr Frigeni, the pontiff "is not the pope of the masses, but of the individual! Even in the midst of a huge crowd, he can look you into the eyes. . . . . It is like if he was duty-bound to infuse everyone with the certainty of being loved by Christ."
On the subject of the Church's "missionary vocation", the papal invitation to young people to "play on the Lord's team" is "particularly significant" because, in order to play, "we must train. Thus, praying is necessary."
In his speech, Mgr Frigeni explained, the pope's disposition as a "spiritual trainer" comes out, with a renewed commitment to coming out of our shell, maybe hurting ourselves. It is however better to have the Church hurts itself coming out and walk, than to have a church closed in on itself ".
The meeting in Brazil was a great Catholic story: three million young people on a beach, from every nation, to invite others to "see and touch the greatness of the Church, of Christ who really reaches all".
From being a land of mission, Latin America is increasingly becoming a land "from where missionaries leave for Africa, Asia and Europe . . . . The pope's presence and teachings," the bishop said, "will be an example and an added incentive."
Lastly, the prelate devoted a final thought to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who chose Rio as the location for this year's World Youth Days. "Every time his name was mentioned, "Mgr Frigeni said, "set off a round of applause."
The next meeting is in 2016 in Krakow, Poland, Pope John Paul II's birthplace. (DS)