MAPUTO, Mozambique – Reaching beyond the borders of his own Catholic flock, Pope Francis Thursday urged young Christians, Muslims, Hindus and followers of traditional religions to “write a new page of history” for their country, as the world is “destroying itself by war.”
“When everything seems to be standing still and stagnant, when our personal issues trouble us and social problems do not meet with the right responses, it does no good to give up,” Francis said.
Speaking in Portuguese, Francis also laid down a gauntlet before pastors in the country: “What is more important for us pastors than to meet with our young people? You are important! You need to know this. You need to believe it.”
Speaking about the different religions, the pope said that “God loves you, and this is something on which all our religious traditions are agreed,” he said. “For him, you have worth; you are not insignificant.”
The pope mixed praise with criticism. After extolling youth for their enthusiasm and joie de vivre, “a shared and celebrated joy that reconciles,” he said it’s greatly needed as the “best antidote to all those who want to create dissension, division and conflict.”
Francis was welcomed by young people cheering, dancing, singing and shouting “reconciliation” after being showered with affection by thousands who lined the streets of Maputo to catch a glimpse of his popemobile.
As is often the case, Francis was visibly more relaxed than in an earlier session with the president and civil authorities, showing no sign of tiredness after the previous day’s ten-hour flight.
Francis’s remarks turned around two questions: “How do we make young people’s dreams come true?” and “How do we get young people involved in the problems that plague the country?”
Both, he said, are related.
“How do you make your dreams come true? How do you help to solve your country’s problems? My words to you are these: Do not let yourselves be robbed of joy. Keep singing and expressing yourselves in fidelity to all the goodness that you have learned from your traditions. Let no one rob you of your joy!”
He urged young people to be “on guard” against two attitudes that kill dreams and hope: “Resignation and anxiety.”
Mozambican youth, he said, can help their country by staying together despite the many things that divide them and by working together to fulfill the dream of a better country.
Social tension, Francis said, destroys not only families and countries but the world itself. The biggest threat of all, he said, is war, and the world “is destroying itself by war. So find ways of building social friendship.”
Working together, he said, is not easy, as it means sacrifice and negotiation, but if one can have “the magnificent experience of setting our differences aside and working together for something greater,” then it’s worth the effort.
“If, as a result of our own simple and at times costly efforts, we can find points of agreement amid conflict, build bridges and make peace for the benefit of all, then we will experience the miracle of the culture of encounter,” he said. “If you want to get somewhere in a hurry, walk alone; if you want to go far, walk with others.”
In the effort to build a better world, mistakes are allowed, he said. What’s not is falling in the trap of giving up.
“The worst mistake would be to let worry make you abandon your dreams of a better country,” he said.
Francis also encouraged young people to listen to their elders, saying that even though they’re called to find their own paths in life, they cannot forget those who came before them, who have much to offer even if “we elderly people can be overbearing and nagging.”
The pope urged youth to grow in friendship with those who think differently, so that solidarity will increase and “become the best weapon to change the course of history.”
Lastly, Francis referred to cyclones Idai and Kenetth from March and April, that killed 1,000 people and left 75,000 displaced. A year’s crops were lost, leaving 1.6 million people in need of food aid, a number bound to increase before agriculture can resume.
According to the pontiff, the cyclones were the “consequences of the ecological disaster that we are experiencing,” so he urged young people to take up the pressing challenge of “protecting our common home.”
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma
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