ROME – Pope Francis expressed his closeness and prayers to the Mexican people on Wednesday, after a devastating earthquake struck the country the day before causing more than 200 victims, including many children in a school.

“Here among you there are many Mexicans,” the pope said in Spanish during his General Audience on Wednesday September 20. “In this moment of pain, I manifest my closeness to all the Mexican population.”

Less than two weeks ago, the country was hit by its most powerful earthquake in a century (8.1 magnitude), which left nearly 90 people dead and countless homes destroyed in its wake. The earthquake on Tuesday also took place on the sad anniversary of a 1985 tremor that killed approximately 10,000 people in Mexico.

“I ask God almighty to welcome to his breast all those who have lost their lives, and comfort the wounded, their families and all victims,” the pope continued, extending his closeness to the rescue workers searching through the rubble for survivors and invoking the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe to be close to the “beloved Mexican nation” with “great tenderness.”

Pope Francis’s audience focused on the theme of “educating to hope” and he said he wanted to speak to the audience “like an educator, like a parent to a young person or to anyone willing to learn,” the pope said.

“Wherever you are, build! If you are on the ground, get back up! If you are sitting down, start walking! If boredom paralyzes you, chase it away with good deeds!” the pope said. “If you feel empty and demoralized, believe that the Holy Sprit may once again fill your void.”

Francis pointed to the people “who opened a breech, who built bridges, who dreamed and believed” and moved the world forward despite the mocking words around them.

“Don’t ever think that the fight you lead down here is completely useless. Don’t believe that at the end of existence ruin awaits us: the seed of the absolute beats within us,” Francis said, adding that “God does not disappoint” and that he would not have placed the bud of hope in our hearts only to frustrate us.

“Everything is born to blossom in an eternal spring,” he said, adding in an off the cuff remark a story of when the oak asked the almond tree about God, and the almond tree blossomed in response. In the same way, the pope said, we must believe in the highest and most beautiful truth and trust in God and the Holy Spirit who move all toward good.

“There, where God sowed, hope!” Francis said. “Don’t give into the night: remember that the first enemy to conquer is not outside yourself, but within you. Therefore don’t allow any space to dark thoughts.”

Francis encouraged all to strive for peace and to not pay heed to those who would wish to spread hate and division. When conflicts arise, the pope advised patience and remembering that all people are carriers of a fragment of truth.

“Love people. Love them one by one,” Francis stressed. “Respect everyone’s journey, linear or troubled as it may be, because everyone has his story to tell.”

The pope added that every child represents the promise of life’s victory over death and that “Jesus gave us a light that shines in the darkness: defend it, protect it,” for that light is our greatest treasure in this life.

“Don’t be afraid to dream, dream! Dream of a world that is not yet visible, but surely will arrive,” Francis said passionately. “Men capable of imagination gifted man with scientific and technological discoveries. They sailed oceans and treaded lands that no one had treaded before. The men who nurtured hope are those who won over slavery, and brought better life conditions on this earth.”

The pope stressed the importance of helping the poor, and remembering that this planet is not only ours but belongs also to the many generations that will come after.

“Ask God for the gift of courage. Remember that Jesus won over fear for us: our most treacherous enemy is powerless against faith,” Francis said. “When you will find yourself frightened before some hardship in your life, remember that you don’t live only for yourself,” and that through you, God will overcome all of man’s enemies.

“Always keep the courage of truth,” the pope added, “but remember: you are not superior to anyone.” Speaking to the audience, Francis encouraged faithful to keep faith in their ideals and never fail to carry them in their hearts, because “loyalty can achieve everything.”

Even when we make mistakes, the pope stressed that the Son of God came to help the sick, and therefore each one of us. No matter how many times we fail, we must not be afraid and get back up, the pope said and looking up to the camera with a smile, he added, “because God is your friend.”

At the end of the audience, the pope reminded faithful that tomorrow, September 21, is the feast of the apostle and evangelist St. Matthew. To young people, the pope said, may the saint serve as an example of how to live life in faith, and for the sick may he be of comfort “when the pain seems unbearable.”

“Live, love, dream and believe,” the pope said. “And with the grace of God, never despair.”