Solmoe (AsiaNews) - During his first meeting with young people in Daejeon for Asian Youth Day, Pope Francis sought to distance Asia's young people that are close to us from certain enemies, like the spiritual poverty that so many of them feel, the oppression and injustice that underlie apparent successes, and the myths of an increasingly corrupt society.
After the great Mass of the Assumption, celebrated in front of local faithful at the Solmoe shrine, Francis focused on young people, speaking off the cuff (sometimes in English) during his official address.
This impressive and imposing site is one of the best loved in the whole of Korea. Here Korea's first priest, Andrew Kim Taegon, was born. In this diocese (Daejeon), many Korean Catholics met their martyrdom. However, the mood was festive.
After the local bishop, Mgr Lazarus You Heung-sik, greeted the pontiff, a group of young Indonesians put on a traditional performance applauded by thousands of young people. The pope smiled during the whole show.
Then three people came forward to present their stories. Leap Lakaraksmey, from Cambodia, was the first. He invited the pontiff to visit his country and "add out Cambodian martyrs to the group of saints."
He was followed by a young man from Hong Kong, John, who asked the pope three questions. "What can we do together with the brothers and sisters in mainland China to show continuously and peacefully God's love for all the Chinese? The second is that many young people in Hong Kong want you to hold World Youth Day in Hong Kong. In order to realise this desire, what do we have to know and what do we have to prepare? The third is what do you think about Chinese Catholics that are scattered around the world? What is our particular mission?"
Finally came the turn of a young Korean woman, Marina Park Giseon, who chose to speak about the "confusion of values" in the society in which she lives. She asked Francis, "How do you see the situation in North Korea."
"I have listened carefully to their testimony, and shall bear them in my heart," said the pope who in his address, dedicated some time to each. Afterwards, before greeting the gathering before his return to Seoul, the pope spoke to those present in English with his words translated into Korean.
"Dear young people of Asia, it is truly great to be here, together, at the Shrine of the Korean Martyrs, in whom the Lord's glory revealed itself at the dawn of the life of the Church in this country. In this vast assembly, which brings together young Christians from all over Asia, we can in some way perceive the glory of Jesus present in our midst, present in his Church that embraces every nation, tongue, and people, present in the power of his Holy Spirit that makes all things new, young and living."
"Today," the pope said, commenting on the day's theme 'The glory of the martyrs is shining on you,' Christ is knocking at the door of your heart. He calls on you to get up to be fully awake and alert, and see the things that really matter in life. What is more, He asks you to go into the streets and onto the roads of this world and knock on the door of the hearts of others, inviting them to accept Him in their lives."
You, young people from across the continent, "want to work to build a world where all can live together in peace and friendship, regardless of barriers, bridging divisions, rejecting violence and prejudice. This is exactly what God wants from us. The Church is the seed of unity for the whole human family. In Christ, all nations and all peoples are called to the unity that does not destroy diversity but recognises it, reconciles it and enriches it. "
At this point, the Pope spoke off the cuff, incorporating the answers he gave to the questions young people asked him. "A friend of mine told me: 'You have to talk to young people without too many cards, without too much chatter. You must speak spontaneously.' However, I cannot do that, I have some difficulty. My English is poor. But if you want, I shall try to say other things spontaneously. Can I? Is it yes? But I shall do it in Italian. I felt very strongly what Marina said. Her struggle about how to live: going for the consecrated life or studying to have better skills to help others."
"This conflict is just apparent because when the Lord calls, he always calls to do good to others. Whether it is the religious, consecrated life or the life of the laity, the purpose is the same: worship God and do good to others. What does Marina and many of you have to do? I wondered about it myself. But you do not choose, Jesus does. You must listen to him and ask him: Lord, what must I do?"
"This is the prayer that young people must say. 'Lord, what do you want from me? With prayer and the advice of true friends, lay people, priests, nuns, bishops, even the pope can give good advice . . . Finding the path the Lord wants for me.'" The Pope then asked his Korean interpreter to translate the prayer and have the young people present repeat it three times. "I am sure the Lord will listen to you, and you too Marina! Thank you for your testimony."
Subsequently, the pontiff talked about Mey, the young Cambodian woman, and her testimony. "With pain she told us that in her land, there are no saints. Actually there certainly are but the Church has not recognised them! I promise that when I get home I will talk with the man in charge of these things, whose name is Angelo, and will ask him to do a search to carry out this thing. Thank you." The Angelo in question is Card Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
"Let us now come to Marina, who had two thoughts about happiness. She told us that happiness cannot be bought, and that the one that is bought does not last. Only the happiness of love lasts. The path of love is simple: love God and thy neighbour. If you do not have hate in your heart, that is how we understand love. It is a sure thing."
Then Marina asked a painful question, about the division between brothers in the Koreas. "Are there two Koreas? No, there is one broken family. This pain, how can this family be helped to come together? Two things: first, some advice, and then hope."
"First the advice: pray, pray for our brothers in the North. Lord, we are one family. Help us achieve unity, without winners nor losers, only one family. That we may call each other brothers. Now I invite you to pray together, in silence, for the unity of the two Koreas."
Then there is hope: "There are many kinds [of hope], but one is beautiful. Korea is one family. You speak the same language. You are brothers who speak the same language. When Joseph's brothers went to Egypt to buy food, they sought food and found a brother. Joseph had noticed that they spoke the same language. Think about your brothers in the North. They speak the same language, and when the same language is spoken in the family, there is also human hope."
Recently, the Pope noted, "we saw a nice thing: the sketch of the Prodigal Son. He had left, had wasted money, and had betrayed his father. At a certain point, out of necessity, he decided to return. He had to think how to ask for his father's forgiveness . . ."
"The Gospel tells us that his father saw him from afar, because every day he went up to the terrace to see if his son was coming back. He hugged him, not even letting him talk, not even letting him ask for forgiveness. He organised a feast, and this was the feast that pleased God! When we go home, when we return to Him. Even when we are sinners! Jesus tells us that in heaven we will feast even more for one sinner who returns that for a hundred righteous who stay at home."
None of us, Francis explained, "knows what to expect from life. But please, do not despair! There is always the Father who awaits us! Going home where the Father is waiting for me. If I am a great sinner, he will have a big feast. And you priests: embraced the sinners and be merciful."
"God never gets tired of waiting," the pope said after the great applause by the young crowd. "I have three suggestions for you," said the pontiff switching back to English. "But now it is time for me to go . . . I shall be waiting for you at Sunday Mass, all of you."
Before leaving amid the thunderous applause of the young people present, Francis entrusted the assembly of young people to the Virgin, expressing the wish that they be "accompanied by Heaven and Saint John Paul II, founder of the World Youth Days." (VFP)