Pope Francis arrives for a meeting with youths at the Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi


Pope Gives Youth Choice: Do You Want to Overcome Challenges or Be Overcome by Them?

Throwing Aside Script, Pope Francis Asks Kenya’s Young People If They’ll Allow Difficulties to Destroy or Use Them as Opportunities

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Pope Francis has asked Kenya’s young people how they will respond to the challenges they face, including those of tribalism, corruption, and desperation, and challenged them to get out of vicious cycles.

Speaking to tens of thousands gathered in Nairobi’s Kasarani Stadium this morning, the Pope listened to the questions of a young man and woman and, putting aside his prepared script, said that he asks himself something on the basis of all the questions they asked:”Why do divisions, wars and deaths occur? Fanatism, and divisions among young people? Why is there that desire to destroy?” 

He recalled that in the first page of the Bible, after all those wonderful things that the Lord had done, a brother kills another brother, and observed that the spirit of evil takes us to destruction, lack of unity, tribalism, corruption and drugs. “It takes us to a destruction out of fanatism,” he said.

The Pope underscored that a man or a woman loses the worst of their humanity when they forget how to pray,” because they feel powerful, because they don’t feel the need to ask the Lord for help in the face of so many tragedies.” 

The choice

Francis stressed that there are different ways of looking at life’s many difficulties, noting you can see them as something that destroys or stops you, or as a real opportunity to overcome the difficulty. 

“To all of you,” he said, “the choice is open,” calling on them to reflect, “‘For me, is this a path of destruction or is it an opportunity to overcome this difficulty, for me, for a member of my family and for this country?'”

“Young people, we don’t live in heaven, we live on earth and earth is full of difficulties and not only of opportunities but sometimes invitations that will lead you astray towards evil. But there is something that all of you have which is big, the capacity to choose. Which path do you want to choose? Which of these two do I want? To choose the path of difficulty and division or the path of opportunity, opportunity to overcome myself and overcome difficulties.” 

“Do you want to overcome challenges or be overcome by them?” he said, stressing, “You have to choose.” 

We are a nation

The Pope acknowledged the difficulties of tribalism, and noted that it destroys, when it involves violence and power, rather than an ear, heart, and hand. “If you don’t dialogue with each other, if you don’t listen to each other, then you’re going to have the division like dust, like a worm that grows in society.”

The Pontiff mentioned that yesterday was pronounced as a day of prayer and reconciliation. Francis then invited all gathered to hold each other’s hands, including those who had just spoken, to stand up as a sign against tribalism. In English, he said, ‘We’re all a nation.”

“We are all a nation! That’s how our hearts must be. Tribalism isn’t just raising our hearts today, it’s an expression of our desire, of our hearts and this tribalism is a work that we must carry out every day against this tendency, to overcome this tendency of tribalism, it is a daily endeavor. It’s a work of the ear, you have to listen to others, it’s a work of opening your heart to others and it’s a work of your hands, you offer your hands to others,” he continued.

Sweet as sugar

The Holy Father warned that corruption can seem “sweet as sugar,” adding that even in the Vatican there has been corruption.

“Corruption is not a path to life, but to death!” he said, noting it robs faithful of joy and peace. 

Acknowledging the difficulties youth face, the Jesuit Pope encouraged, “When desperation hits you, look at the Cross.” He reminded them that this is hope because the story does not end there, but the Resurrection follows. The Pope also reminded the young people to pray and to pray very hard, for it will help them.

Recognizing many are abandoned, including those who do not experience love of their parents, he noted there is just one solution: Do or give what you haven’t received. He explained that if you did not feel loved or understood, then love and be understanding, and if you felt alone, approach and be close to those who are lonely.

Responding to a question about ways of communication, especially through technology, the Pope stressed that gestures of closeness and friendship are what is needed, and that this intimacy and sharing will become contagious and bare many fruits.


As the Pope neared the end of his talk, he commented that it was almost noon and asked, “Are you hungry?” to gauge if he could share one thing more, which the crowds enthusiastically welcomed. The Pontiff went on to tell them the two things he always carries with him: a rosary and Via Crucis.

After Pope Francis shared with them God’s only “defect”–that He can’t stop being Father–he concluded asking all present to stand and join in praying an Our Father.

On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full translation of transcription: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/full-text-pope-s-off-the-cuff-address-to-kenyan-youth

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': http://www.gracewing.co.uk/page219.html or https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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