Daejeon (AsiaNews) - "Wake up! Don't sleep, wake up!" Pope Francis told some 10,000 young people gathered in Haemi Castle, a shrine dedicated to Korean martyrs, during the concluding Mass of the Sixth Asian Youth Day.
"Young people of Asia," Pope Francis said, "you are the heirs of a great testimony, a precious witness to Christ. He is the light of the world; he is the light of our lives! The martyrs of Korea - and innumerable others throughout Asia - handed over their bodies to their persecutors; to us they have handed on a perennial witness that the light of Christ's truth dispels all darkness, and the love of Christ is gloriously triumphant."
Bishops from many Asian countries have joined Pope Francis at the altar for this great and joyous moment for the Church in Asia. Vatican Secretary of State Mgr Pietro Parolin, and the President of the Federation of Asian Conference, Archbishop of Mumbai Card Oswald Gracias, co-celebrated the Mass with the Holy Father.
The "consolation" of the martyrs' witness, which ensure the victory of life over death, however, was not the only theme of the occasion. "The other part of this Day's theme - Asian Youth! Wake up! - speaks to you of a duty, a responsibility."
Indeed, "The Asian continent, imbued with rich philosophical and religious traditions, remains a great frontier for your testimony to Christ, 'the way, and the truth and the life'. As young people not only in Asia, but also as sons and daughters of this great continent, you have a right and a duty to take full part in the life of your societies. Do not be afraid to bring the wisdom of faith to every aspect of social life!"
However, for the Holy Father, youth is not a blank cheque, or just hope, for "you are not only a part of the future of the Church; you are also a necessary and beloved part of the Church's present!"
"Wake up! Don't sleep, wake up!" the pope added when he turned to the third part of the topic of the day. "It is the duty to be vigilant, not to allow the pressures, the temptations and the sins of ourselves or others to dull our sensitivity to the beauty of holiness, to the joy of the Gospel," he said off the cuff in English. "No one who sleeps can sing, dance or rejoice."
"Dear young people of Asia," Francis said in concluding, "it is my hope that, in union with Christ and the Church, you will take up this path, which will surely bring you much joy. Now, as we approach the table of the Eucharist, let us turn to our Mother Mary, who brought Jesus to the world. Yes, Mother Mary, we long to have Jesus; in your maternal affection help us to bring him to others, to serve him faithfully, and to honour him in every time and place, in this country and throughout Asia."
After the Mass, Mgr Peter Kang U-il, President of the Korean Bishops' Conference, delivered a thank you speech, as did Card Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai card. Gracias, who told the gathering that the upcoming Asian Youth Day would be held in 2017 in Indonesia.