ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE —As scores of pilgrims from around the world gather in Krakow, Poland, to participate in the week-long Catholic rally called World Youth Day with Pope Francis, hundreds of illegal immigrants in Texas received a special message from him: “Live enthusiastically and go forward!” without being deterred by “walls.”
“I want to tell you to always look forward, always look towards the horizon, don’t let life put walls in front of you, always look at the horizon,” Francis said in a video message sent to the young in the diocese of Brownsville, which lies on the Mexican border and is considered one of the most impoverished areas of the United States.
“Always have courage to want more, more, more … with courage, but, at the same time, do not forget to look back to the heritage you have received from your ancestors, from your grandparents, from your parents; to the legacy of faith that you now have in your hands, as you look forward,” he said.
On Tuesday, simultaneous with the opening of World Youth Day (WYD) in Krakow, this Texas diocese hosted a celebration for hundreds of young people aged 13-18 on Tuesday in an impoverished rural area known as Peñitas.
An estimated 10,000 people live in the region, many of them lacking legal immigration status, making it impossible for the youth to travel to Poland- or even to dream of being able to afford the trip to Poland.
For this reason, Francis sent them a video message, in Spanish, in which he asks them, as he did the youth in Brazil back in 2013, during his first ever WYD, to live “the game of life” to its fullest.
The “wall” reference is an important one, seeing that the Republican presidential candidate, billionaire turned politician Donald Trump has repeated over and over again his plan to build a wall in the border with Mexico and “make them pay for it.”
The pope is on record saying that candidates who promise to build walls to keep migrants out are “not Christians.”
The expression “the game of life” is a very familiar one used in Spanish, a reference to soccer (though it’s also the name of a very famous Mexican telenovela from the early 2000s).
“Play life to the full! Today, take life as it comes and do good to others,” Francis told them, because “In the world today, a game is being played out in which there is no room for substitutes: either you’re in the team or you’re out.”
He also told the young to always look forward, and not to be deterred by walls, meaning, the obstacles, life puts on their path, because “God calls you to be fruitful! God calls you to transmit this life to others. God calls you to create hope. God calls you to receive mercy and show mercy to others. God calls you to be happy. Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid. Play life to the full! That is life.”
In many ways, this short, two-minute video is a preview of what Francis is bound to say during his July 27-31 visit to the land of St. John Paul II. The youth are obviously the pope’s primary audience for these days, but the question of migration has been his key social concern throughout the year.