Before a million young people gathered for the vigil in Krakow, Pope Francis called on them to answer in person Jesus’ call to change the world. To do so, they must avoid nodding off, as well as growing drowsy and dull by consumerism and sofa-happiness. Adults should heed the courage and risk taking attitude of the young. A young Polish woman, a Syrian woman from Aleppo and an ex drug addict from Paraguay told poignant stories.
Krakow (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis on Saturday evening began the vigil at 7.30 pm in the Campus Misericordiae, the Field of Mercy. In his address, the pontiff called on young people not to give in to festering fear and “paralysis”, not to accept “sofa-happiness”, immobility, feeling “comfortable, calm, safe”, vegetating, starting “to nod off, to grow drowsy and dull”.
Pope Francis called on young people to be protagonists in their own lives and story, and leave “a mark”. “History today calls upon us to defend our dignity and not to let others decide our future.”
At least a million young people attended the prayer vigil whose theme was “Jesus, Source of Mercy", presented by the Archbishop of Krakow, Card Stanisław Dziwisz.
As he called on the pope to lead the meeting, the prelate said, "Holy Father, young people are the hope of the Church and of the world in the third millennium. They shall take responsibility for the fate of their nations, communities and families. They shall preach the Gospel of peace in a new language, with a new sensitivity, with new hope. "
Five stage performances followed centred on "faith to the doubters, hope to the discouraged, love for the indifferent, forgiveness for those who have done evil, and joy to the sad." Three people bore witness of their own experiences in between performances.
First came Natalia, a young Polish woman who used to live in the emptiness of consumerism and career, but also sadness, and who changed her life after a confession. "When I was going to confession,” she said, “I was convinced that I had lost eternal life forever. Instead, I felt that God had always been waiting for me and that He had chosen that day for me. I left the church as if I had left a battlefield, very tired but very happy at the same time, with a feeling of victory and the conviction that Jesus was returning home with me. "
Another story was that of Miguel, from Paraguay, a former drug addict since the age of 11 years, who also killed and spent time in prison, who was saved by the "Fazenda de Esperança", a rehab home in Brazil.
Then came Rand Mittri, a young Syrian woman from Aleppo, "the forgotten city", where everything "is destroyed, ruined, crumbled". "I learnt,” she said, “that my faith in Christ is beyond the circumstances of life . . . I believe that God exists despite all our suffering." Rand asked everyone to pray for her people.
The pope, in his speech, called on young people to pray in silence for Rand and for all the "wars", including the inner ones. At the start, Pope Francis thanked all the three young people for their stories, noting with respect to Rand that “the suffering and the wars that many young people experience are no longer anonymous, something we read about in the papers. They have a name, they have a face, they have a story, they are close at hand. Today the war in Syria has caused pain and suffering for so many people, for so many young people like our good friend Rand, who has come here and asked us to pray for her beloved country”
Turning to Natalia and Miguel, he said, “Both of you are a living sign of what God’s mercy wants to accomplish in us.
“This is no time for denouncing anyone or fighting. We do not want to tear down. We have no desire to conquer hatred with more hatred, violence with more violence, terror with more terror. We are here today because the Lord has called us together. Our response to a world at war has a name: its name is fraternity, its name is brotherhood, its name is communion, its name is family. We celebrate the fact that coming from different cultures, we have come together to pray. Let our best word, our best argument, be our unity in prayer.
At this point, the pontiff invited all those present to join hands and build "a bridge", praying silently. After the prayer, the invitation to live Pentecost came, to overcome fear and immobility, and follow "Jesus, the Lord of risk", taking “the path of the ‘craziness’ of our God, who teaches us to encounter him in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the friend in trouble, the prisoner, the refugee and the migrant, and our neighbours who feel abandoned. To take the path of our God, who encourages us to be politicians, thinkers, social activists. The God who asks us to devise an economy inspired by solidarity. In all the settings in which you find yourselves, God’s love invites you bring the Good News, making of your own lives a gift to him and to others.”
In his dialogue with young people, Pope Francis urged them on. “God expects something from you. God wants something from you. God hopes in you. God comes to break down all our fences. He comes to open the doors of our lives, our dreams, our ways of seeing things. God comes to break open everything that keeps you closed in. He is encouraging you to dream. He wants to make you see that, with you, the world can be different. For the fact is, unless you offer the best of yourselves, the world will never be different.”
Almost as a commentary on recent events of violence and terrorism, Francis added, “Life nowadays tells us that it is much easier to concentrate on what divides us, what keeps us apart. People try to make us believe that being closed in on ourselves is the best way to keep safe from harm. Today, we adults need you to teach us how to live in diversity, in dialogue, to experience multiculturalism not as a threat but an opportunity. Have the courage to teach us that it is easier to build bridges than walls! Together we ask that you challenge us to take the path of fraternity. To build bridges… Do you know the first bridge that has to be built? It is a bridge that we can build here and now – by reaching out and taking each other’s hand. Come on, build it now, here, this first of bridges: take each other’s hand. This is a great bridge of brotherhood”.
“Today Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life, is calling you to leave your mark on history. He, who is life, is asking each of you to leave a mark that brings life to your own history and that of many others. He, who is truth, is asking you to abandon the paths of rejection, division and emptiness. Are you up to this? What answer will you give, with your hands and with your feet, to the Lord, who is the way, the truth and the life? May the Lord bless your dreams.”
The vigil ended with songs and prayers, together with the Eucharistic adoration and the blessing officiated by the pontiff.