Vatican City ( AsiaNews) - "Let a cry of peace rise from the whole Earth," Pope Francis said as called on everyone to join him in a day of prayer and fasting for peace next Saturday, 7 September.
"I renew," he said, "the invitation to the whole Church to live this day intensely, and even now I express gratitude to the other Christian brethren, to the brethren of other religions and to the men and women of good will who desire to join in this initiative, in places and ways of their own. I especially urge the Roman faithful and pilgrims to participate in the prayer vigil here in St. Peter's Square at 7.00 pm, in order to ask the Lord for the great gift of peace."
About 70,000 people came together in St Peter's Square to hear the pope for the first general audience after the summer break. The pope moved among them, as usual, on a jeep, shaking hands and kissing children. On this occasion, he was also "struck" by a t-shirt someone threw at him.
The catechesis for the audience was dedicated instead entirely to World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. "It has been more than a month but I think it is important to look back at the event for the passage of time allows us to perceive better its meaning".
For the pontiff, three words describe those days: welcome, celebration and mission. They "are not just a memory of what happened in Rio, but are soul of our life and the life of our communities," a tool with which young people "give hope to the world" and transform it.
"Welcome" is the first "word" that describes those days-the welcome provided by "families and parishes".
A "pilgrimage always involves discomfort, but the welcome helps to overcome it and, indeed, transforms it into an opportunity for knowledge and friendship. Lasting ties are forged, especially in prayer. The Church also grows throughout the world, like a network of true friends in Jesus Christ, a network that, as it takes you also frees you."
"Celebration" is the second word "because when a city is filled with young men and women roaming the streets with flags from around the world, greeting and hugging each other: That is a real treat."
However, "the biggest celebration is the celebration of faith. When we praise the Lord together, singing, listening to the Word of God, we remains in silent worship. This was World Youth Day's high point. It was the real purpose for the pilgrimage, which we experienced especially in the great Vigil Mass on Saturday evening and in the final Mass. Behold, this is the big celebration, the celebration of faith and fellowship, which begins in this world and will not end."
"Mission" is the third word. "This [year's] World Youth Day was characterised by a missionary theme: 'Go and make disciples of all nations!' We have heard the words of Jesus. This is the mission, He gave all of us. It is the mandate of the Risen Christ to his disciples: 'Go, step out of yourself, and every confinement, to bring the light and love of the Gospel to everyone, to the farthest peripheries of existence! It was this mandate from Jesus that I entrusted on the young people that filled Copacabana Beach for as far as the eye could see."
As there and then, Francis and young people interacted directly with one another, with the pope asking questions and young people answering "yes."
"I would like to ask all of you, strongly: Do you want to be a hope for God? Do you want to be a hope, do you? Do you want to be a hope for the Church?"
"To a young heart that welcomes Christ's love and becomes hope for others," their "Yes" represents as "a huge force!"
"You, young men and women, young people, you must turn us into hope, turn yourselves into hope! Open the doors a new world of hope. This is your task. Do you want to be a hope for us all?"
Another "Yes" came from the crowd.
"Let us think about what this multitude of young people means; those who met the risen Christ in Rio de Janeiro, who bring his love in the life of every day, experience him, and communicate him. They do not make it into the newspapers because they do not commit violent acts, or cause any scandals, and therefore become newsworthy. But if they remain united with Jesus, they will build his kingdom, forward fellowship, sharing, and works of mercy, and be a powerful force to make the world fairer and more beautiful, transforming it! I would now ask the young men and women who are here in the square: Do you have the courage to take up this challenge?"
"Yes," they answered.
"Are you moved by this power of love, power of love, and mercy so as to have the courage and desire to change the world?"
"Yes," they answered.