ROME – In a video call with Russian youth Friday, Pope Francis urged them to be artisans of peace amid conflict and polarization, telling them to forge strong relations with the elderly and to help those in need, welcoming everyone they meet.

The pontiff did not specifically mention the Russian war in Ukraine during the call, but in context the reference seemed clear.

“I wish you, young Russians, the vocation of being artisans of peace in the midst of so many conflicts, in the midst of so many polarizations that afflict our world on all sides,” the pope said in his Aug. 25 address.

He invited the Russian youth “to sow seeds of reconciliation, small seeds which in this winter of war will not germinate for the moment in the frozen ground, but which will blossom in the future spring.”

The young people on the call were gathered in St. Petersburg from Aug. 23-27 for a tenth national encounter of Catholic youth in Russia.  The theme is the same as the recent global World Youth Day (WYD) event in Portugal, “Mary rose and went in haste.”

In his address, the pope, who presided over WYD in Lisbon, proposed three ideas inspired by the motto, the first of which was that “God calls and goes out.”

“God calls us to walk, God invites us to go out and walk,” he said, saying each person, like Mary, is called by God by name from the beginning of their lives, “before the talents we have, before our merits, before our darkness and wounds, first of all we have been called.”

“God doesn’t go to the crowd,” he said, “God goes to you, for you.”

Noting that Mary was a virgin, and her cousin Elizabeth was barren prior to their pregnancies, Pope Francis said that despite that, “they became witnesses. Of what? Of God’s transforming power,” he said, saying, “God transforms. This is the experience of God’s overflowing love that cannot but be shared.”

This is why Mary rose and went in haste, he said, because “when God calls, we cannot sit still. Get up and go quickly, because the world, the brother, the sufferer, the one who is next to us and does not know the hope of God needs to receive it, needs to receive God’s joy.”

Francis said the second idea was something he often repeated during WYD in Lisbon, which is that “God’s love is for everyone, and the Church belongs to everyone.”

“God’s love is recognized by its hospitality,” he said, saying, “God always welcomes, creates, creates space for everyone to find a spot, he is attentive to the needs of others.

He noted that in the Bible, Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months, helping her with her needs, and that both women created space for the new lives of Jesus and John the Baptist, but also for one another.

The Church, the pope said, “is a mother with an open heart, which knows how to welcome and receive, especially those who need more care. The Church is a loving mother, for she is the home of those who are loved and the home of those who are called.”

“How many wounds, how much desperation can be healed where one feels welcomed,” Francis said, saying he dreams of a church “where no one is superfluous, where no one is extra.”

“Please, may the Church not be a ‘customs’ to select who gets in and who doesn’t. No, everyone, everyone,” he said, saying admission to the Church “is free” and each person is invited to follow Jesus and to evaluate their standing before God.

To help with this, “there are the teachings and the sacraments” of the Church, he said, urging young people not to forget that “the Church is for everyone: young and old, healthy and sick, righteous and sinners.”

Pope Francis said a third idea is that “it is fundamental that young people and elderly are open to one another.”

Francis, who often stresses the importance of intergenerational ties, said that “by meeting the elderly, young people have the opportunity to receive the richness of their lives and experiences, and the elderly in meeting young people find in them the promise of a future full of hope.”

“It is important that young people dialogue with the elderly, that you speak to your grandparents, that you listen to you grandparents, that you listen to that life experience that goes beyond your parents,” he said, saying it is the ability to dream and see a vision for the future “that has kept and keeps generations together.”

He said the elderly “dream of many things: democracy, the unity of nations…and young people prophesy, they are called to be artisans of the environment and of peace.”

Francis invited Russian youth to be “bridge builders” among generations, “recognizing the dreams of those who have preceded you on the journey,” saying the bond between generations “keeps the history and culture of a people alive.”

“Have the courage to substitute fear with dreams…do not be administrators of fear but entrepreneurs of dreams. Treat yourself to the luxury of dreaming big!” he said and thanked the youths for their time and for sharing their dreams, hopes, sufferings, and fears.

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