Pope tells young people to say no to those who “say that things cannot change” and to “vendors of smoke”
Francis takes part in WYD welcoming ceremony. The Church “wants to learn from you, to be reassured that the Father’s Mercy has an ever-youthful face.”
Krakow (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis spoke to half a million young people in Błonia Park in Krakow, the vanguard of many more expected on Saturday and Sunday.
In his address, he urged them to say no to those who “say that things cannot change”, to those young people “who seem to have opted for ‘early retirement’” who “are bored . . . and boring”. He told them to say no “to vendors of smoke” who rob “our energy, our joy, our dreams by fond illusions”.
The pontiff insisted that the “Church looks to you and wants to learn from you, to be reassured that the Father’s Mercy has an ever-youthful face.” It wants to learn the task of “building bridges and tearing down walls,” of “helping the poor,” and listening to “those of other cultures and peoples, even those we are afraid of because we consider them a threat”.
This afternoon Francis joined young people from more than 170 nations on “their" day. He took the tramway to the welcoming ceremony. Krakow Mayor Jacek Majchrowski took an eco-friendly tram to pick up the pope in front of the Archbishop’s Residence where the Holy Father is staying for the trip to the big park. Some young disabled people were among the passengers, whom the pope greeted one by one. One seat was empty, for a missing friend. Maciej Szymon Cieśla, the young graphic designer who created many of the WYD posters, was diagnosed with cancer in November. Standing in the window of the Archbishop’s Residence, Pope Francis spoke about the young man “who wanted to see the pope’s visit in person, and had reserved a seat on the tram with the pope, but died on 2 July. People were touched; he did a lot of good to everybody.”
At the park, a sea of flags, songs, dances, and festive cries welcomed the pope as he toured the site in car. This was followed by the actual welcome ceremony whose theme – Called to Holiness – was introduced by Cracovian music and dances and a parade of young people representing the various continents.
"All this,” said in his greeting Card Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow, “is happening in a place particularly close to Saint John Paul II, who started World Youth Days, in a city that we call the spiritual capital of Divine Mercy because of Saint Sister Faustina."
“Dear young people,” said Francis, “in these days Poland is in a festive mood; in these days Poland wants to be the ever-youthful face of mercy. From this land, with you and all those young people who cannot be present today yet join us through the various communications media, we are going to make this World Youth Day an authentic Jubilee celebration.
“In my years as a bishop, I have learned one thing. Nothing is more beautiful than seeing the enthusiasm, dedication, zeal and energy with which so many young people live their lives. When Jesus touches a young person’s heart, he or she becomes capable of truly great things. It is exciting to listen to you share your dreams, your questions and your impatience with those who say that things cannot change. For me, it is a gift of God to see so many of you, with all your questions, trying to make a difference. It is beautiful and heartwarming to see all that restlessness!
“Today the Church looks to you and wants to learn from you, to be reassured that the Father’s Mercy has an ever-youthful face, and constantly invites us to be part of his Kingdom.
“Knowing your enthusiasm for mission, I repeat: mercy always has a youthful face! Because a merciful heart is motivated to move beyond its comfort zone. A merciful heart can go out and meet others; it is ready to embrace everyone. A merciful heart is able to be a place of refuge for those who are without a home or have lost their home; it is able to build a home and a family for those forced to emigrate; it knows the meaning of tenderness and compassion. A merciful heart can share its bread with the hungry and welcome refugees and migrants. To say the word “mercy” along with you is to speak of opportunity, future, commitment, trust, openness, hospitality, compassion and dreams.
“Let me tell you another thing I have learned over these years. It pains me to meet young people who seem to have opted for ‘early retirement’. I worry when I see young people who have ‘thrown in the towel’ before the game has even begun, who are defeated even before they begin to play, who walk around glumly as if life has no meaning. Deep down, young people like this are bored. . . and boring! But it is also hard, and troubling, to see young people who waste their lives looking for thrills or a feeling of being alive by taking dark paths and in the end having to pay for it… and pay dearly. It is disturbing to see young people squandering some of the best years of their lives, wasting their energies running after peddlers of fond illusions (where I come from, we call them ‘vendors of smoke’), who rob you of what is best in you.
“We are gathered here to help one another other, because we do not want to be robbed of the best of ourselves. We don’t to be robbed of our energy, our joy, our dreams by fond illusions.”
Citing the Gospel passage that refers to Jesus’ visit to Martha, Mary and Lazarus, the pope went on to say, “Our many jobs and responsibilities can make us a bit like Martha: busy, scattered, constantly running from place to place. . . but we can also be like Mary: whenever we see a beautiful landscape, or look at a video from a friend on our cellphone, we can stop and think, stop and listen… In these days, Jesus wants to stop and enter our home. He will look at us hurrying about with all our concerns, as he did with Martha… and he will wait for us to listen to him, like Mary, to make space for him amid the bustle. May these be days given over to Jesus and to listening to one another. May they help us welcome Jesus in all those with whom we share our homes, our neighbourhoods, our groups and our schools.
“Whoever welcomes Jesus, learns to love as Jesus does. So he asks us if we want a full life: Do you want a complete life? Start by letting yourself be open and attentive! Because happiness is sown and blossoms in mercy. That is his answer, his offer, his challenge, his adventure: mercy. Mercy always has a youthful face. Like that of Mary of Bethany, who sat as a disciple at the feet of Jesus and joyfully listened to his words, since she knew that there she would find peace. Like that of Mary of Nazareth, whose daring ‘Yes’ launched her on the adventure of mercy. All generations would call her blessed; to all of us she is the “Mother of Mercy”.
“All together, then, we ask the Lord: ‘Launch us on the adventure of mercy! Launch us on the adventure of building bridges and tearing down walls, barriers and barbed wire. Launch us on the adventure of helping the poor, those who feel lonely and abandoned, or no longer find meaning in their lives. Send us, like Mary of Bethany, to listen attentively to those we do not understand, those of other cultures and peoples, even those we are afraid of because we consider them a threat. Make us attentive to our elders, as Mary of Nazareth was to Elizabeth, in order to learn from their wisdom.
“Here we are, Lord! Send us to share your merciful love. We want to welcome you in our midst during this World Youth Day. We want to affirm that our lives are fulfilled when they are shaped by mercy, for that is the better part, and it will never be taken from us.”