It was Pope Francis’ last meeting at Milan: at the end of his one-day, pastoral visit, March 25, 2017, when he met with 45,000 young people, namely recently confirmed and confirmation candidates, in San Siro Stadium, in the open atmosphere of a match. Some 78,000 people, including parents and catechists, received the Pope in one of Europe’s largest stadiums.
Raging as supporters, the tens of thousands of young people chanted “Francesco! Francesco!” in a thunder of acclamations at the Pope’s entrance — a burst of enthusiasm that the Pontiff had to channel, calling for silence to open the meeting.
In an exchange interrupted by constant applause, Pope Francis answered the questions of a young Confirmation candidate, two parents and a catechist.
The Pontiff explained how his friendship with Jesus grew in his youth, thanks to three elements: grandparents, who are “old” and “of another time,” who “don’t use computers,” he joked, but who have “the wisdom of life.”
“My grandfather said to me that I must never go to bed without saying a word to Jesus, without saying “good night,” confided the Pope. “Talk with grandparents, ask questions, listen . . . have you understood?,” he encouraged while the energetic young people expressed their assent.
“A second thing helped me, added the Pontiff, to play with friends . . . without insulting, it’s what Jesus did . . . this teaches to respect others.” And a third element is the parish.
Addressing the parents, the Holy Father noted: “Our children look at us constantly . . . They observe us all the time and thus they learn.” And to be avoided: “You can’t imagine the anguish of children when parents quarrel . . . they suffer!
“When one gives life to a child, it’s important to be conscious of that: we take on the responsibility of making faith grow in that child,” he continued, recommending that they teach children solidarity.
The Pope also encouraged to go to Mass as a family and then to go and play in a park “to spend Sunday together.” “Today, parents have lost the habit of playing with their children, of spending time with their children,” he regretted.
Before the catechist, the Holy Father pleaded for an education founded on “thinking-doing-feeling,” that is, the harmony of the three languages of head, hands and heart.
Finally, he made an appeal against school bullying, asking young people to promise “never to do that and never to let that be done.” “Promise this to Jesus!” he stressed, unleashing a new round of applause and ovations.
On the lawn of San Siro, the young people also performed gigantic choreographies, among others, around themes of the heart and of Christ.