In the tradition started by Pope John Paul II at World Youth Day (WYD), Pope Francis addressed youth gathered beneath his balcony at the Bishop’s palace on his first night in Krakow for an informal chat that was filled with compassion and wisdom.
CNA/EWTN News is reporting on the off-the-cuff Q and A that Francis held on his first night in Poland where he encouraged a crowd of youth to spread the joy of their faith.
“You must do your duty and make chaos all night!” he told the youngsters. “Show your Christian joy, the joy the Lord gave you to be in the community who follows Jesus.”
While encouraging them not to be afraid to embrace their faith, he told the story of a young man who left his studies in graphic design to volunteer for WYD2016. He used his talents to design all of the banners that currently decorate the streets of Krakow and in the process, rediscovered his faith.
In November, the young man was diagnosed with cancer and doctors did everything to save his life, including amputating one of his legs, but to no avail. The cancer continued to spread.
However, the young man would not be cowed and even reserved a place on the same Krakow tram that the Pope will use later in the week that will be filled with sick and disabled youth.
Sadly, the young man didn’t make it. He died on July 2.
“He did a lot of good for everyone,” Francis said, and led the gathering in a moment of silent prayer for the young man.
“We must get used to the good things and the bad things. Life is like this, dear young people,” he said, stressing that “there is something we cannot doubt: the faith of this young man, of our friend, who worked so much for this WYD.”
He then urged the youth to thank the Lord for giving us “examples of courage, of courageous youth who help us to go forward in life.”
Just before bidding the youth goodnight, he advised: “Don’t be afraid, God is great, God is good, and all of us have something good.”
As CNA reports, just before coming out onto the balcony the Pope had connected virtually with Italian youth who were participating in WYD. One of the participants was a 15 year-old girl named Andrea who had been teased all of her life and who attempted suicide at the age of 13. When she was recovering in the hospital, she realized there was nothing wrong with her, but rather with the people who had been tormenting her.
Even though she has since moved beyond this painful period in her young life, Andrea admitted that she still feels the pain and struggles to completely forgive the people who hurt her.
“Children are cruel many times, and they have that capacity to hurt you where it will do the most damage,” the pope said.
Citing cruelty as the “base of all wars” he said this cruelty also “kills even the good name of another” through gossip.
“Gossip is terrorism,” Francis said, explaining that when a person gossips, “it destroys the dignity, the fame of a person.” To gossip is like “throwing a bomb” that explodes and destroys everything around it.
This temptation must be overcome with peace and forgiveness, but to forgive “isn’t easy, because one can say ‘I forgive, but I don’t forget.’”
“You always carry with you the hurt of this cruelty,” he said, but it is only with the grace of God that we can completely forgive someone. “By ourselves we can’t, but we have to ask the Lord to give us the grace to forgive, to forgive our enemies.”
The final question he received was from a youth who had been in Munich on July 22 when 18 year-old Ali David Sonboly, a German of Iranian descent, killed nine people in the Olympia shopping mall. The young man asked the pope how they can spread peace in a world filled with so much violence and hatred.
“We all have a decision to make in life: do I build bridges, or do I build walls?” the pope said. “In our daily lives the ability to build a bridge when you extend your hand to a friend, you make a bridge. But when you hit, hurt another, you build a wall. Hate always grows with walls.”
Regardless of how our gestures of peace are received, we must always seek a way to build bridges.
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