Pope Francis greets 80,000 teens on pilgrimage in St. Peter’s Square on April 18, 2022. | Vatican Media
Pope Francis urged 80,000 teenagers gathered in St. Peter’s Square yesterday to turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary to find the courage to say yes to God’s will.
“May Our Lady, the mother who was almost your age when she received the angel’s message and became pregnant, may she teach you to say, ‘Here I am,’ and to not be afraid. Take courage and go forth,” the pope told the teens on pilgrimage on April 18.
From the popemobile, Pope Francis greeted the crowd of young people aged 12-17, who came from across Italy for the pilgrimage on Easter Monday evening.
The youth pilgrimage was organized by the Italian bishops’ conference in an effort to reach out to young people whose education and lives were upended during the past two years of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his message, Pope Francis told the teens not to be afraid to reach out to others for help when experiencing discouragement or anxiety, saying “crises must be brought to light to overcome them.”
“Life sometimes puts us to the test, makes us experience our weaknesses, makes us feel raw, helpless, alone,” he said.
“How many times in this [pandemic] period have you felt alone, far from your friends? How many times have you been afraid?” Francis added.
He underlined that people should not be afraid to admit their fears.
“Fears need to be spoken, fears need to be expressed so that they can be cast out. Remember this: fears must be said out loud. To whom? To dad, to mom, to a friend, to someone who can help you. They need to be brought to light,” he said.
“And when fears, which are in the darkness, are brought into the light, the truth breaks out.”
During the youth encounter, a girl named Sofia spoke about how she had experienced loneliness during the COVID-19 lockdowns and how a new friend helped her to rediscover hope.
Another girl, Alice, shared her suffering due to the death of her grandmother and how she came to understand redemptive suffering.
Pope Francis also reminded the young people to keep in mind their brothers and sisters who are suffering due to the war in Ukraine.
“Jesus conquered the darkness of death. Unfortunately, the clouds that obscure our time are still thick. In addition to the pandemic, Europe is experiencing a terrible war while injustices and violence that destroy humanity and the planet continue in many parts of the Earth,” the pope said.
“Often it is precisely your peers who pay the highest price: not only is their existence compromised and made insecure, but their dreams for the future are trampled underfoot. So many brothers and sisters are still waiting for the light of Easter.”
The pope said that just as children call to their mother in times of difficulty, so too do Catholics ask for the intercession of “our mom, Mary,” who was about the same age when she “accepted her extraordinary vocation to be the mother of Jesus.”
Pope Francis blessed the young people and said: “May the risen Jesus be the strength of your lives: go in peace and be happy, all of you!”