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Pope Francis Welcomes 60,000 Altar Servers to St. Peter’s Square

12th International Pilgrimage of Altar Boys and Girls

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Pope Francis tends to draw a positive reaction from young people and the July 31, 2018, crowd in St. Peter’s Square was no exception.  It was a joyful and sometimes noisy group of some 60,000 youth age 13-23, visiting from 18 nations.
They came to Rome for the 12th International Pilgrimage of Altar Boys and Girls, running from July 28 – August 4. The event is sponsored by Coetus Internationalis Ministrantium (C.I.M.).
C.I.M. is an international association for altar boys and girls C.I.M. that unites diocesan and national referents for this pastoral task in the Roman-Catholic Church.
The most important activity of C.I.M. is the organization of the international pilgrimage of altar boys and girls that takes place every four or five years in Rome. In such occasions, there is the possibility to meet altar boys and girls coming from all over the world.
Pope Francis welcomed the young people and said he admired them for coming despite the hot weather (it was in the 90s F).
“I am happy to see you in such great numbers here in Saint Peter’s Square, adorned with your colorful banners,” the Holy Father said. “Thank you very much for giving me the emblems of your pilgrimage!
“I am a pilgrim with you. You have come from many countries throughout the world, yet all of us are united by our faith in Jesus Christ. We are journeying together with him who is our peace. I thank your President, Bishop Nemet, for his kind greeting on your behalf. And now, I give the word to you, for a moment of conversation.”
The Pope then had a question-answer session with the altar servers, responding to questions submitted in different languages from different countries.
Following is the Vatican-Provided Translation of the Q/A Session:

  1. From Luxembourg
    Saint-Père, en tant que servants d’autel et aussi comme croyants, nous nous donnons la paix par le signe de la paix durant la Sainte Messe. Comment pouvons-nous contribuer à faire sortir cette paix également hors des murs de nos églises et être des bâtisseurs de paix dans nos familles, dans nos pays et dans le monde?

Holy Father
Thank you! You put it very well: peace and Holy Mass go together. Just before the sign of peace, we ask the Lord to grant peace and unity to the Church community. Peace is his gift; it transforms us, so that, as members of Jesus’ body, we can share in his sentiments, think as he thinks, and love as he loves. At the end of Mass, we are sent forth with the words: “Go in peace”. Concrete commitment to peace is proof of the fact that we are truly Christ’s disciples. Making peace begins with little things. For example, at home after a quarrel, do I go off by myself and act hurt, or do I make an effort to go back and reach out? Am I willing to ask myself in every situation: “What would Jesus do in my place?” If we can do this, if we really put it into practice, we will bring Christ’s peace to our everyday lives. Then we will be peacemakers and channels of God’s peace.

  1. From Portugal
    Santo Padre, somos acólitos. Servimos o Senhor junto do altar e contemplamo-Lo na Eucaristia. Como poderemos viver a contemplação espiritual a exemplo de Maria e o serviço prático a exemplo de Marta, procurando reconhecer concretamente, na nossa vida, aquilo que Jesus quer de nós?

Holy Father
In a real way, as altar servers, you share in the experience of Martha and Mary. It would be wonderful if, alongside your service to the liturgy, you could become more involved in the life of your parish and also spend some time in silence in the Lord’s presence. In this interplay of action and contemplation, we come to realize God’s plan for us. We see the talents and interests God has given us and how best to develop them. Even more importantly, we place ourselves humbly before God, just as we are, with our good qualities and our limitations, and ask him how we can best serve him and our neighbor. Don’t be afraid to ask for a word of helpful advice when you are wondering how to serve God and all those people throughout the world who need our help. Remember: the more you give yourself to others, the more you will get back in personal fulfillment and true happiness!

  1. From Antigua and Barbuda
    Holy Father, as altar servers it makes us sad to see how few of our own age group come to Mass or take part in the life of our parishes. In some countries, for a variety of reasons, the Church is rapidly losing many young people. How can we, and our communities, reach out to these people and bring them back to Christ and to the family of the Church?

Holy Father
Even now, as young people, you can be apostles, capable of drawing others to Jesus. This will happen if you are full of enthusiasm for him, if you have encountered him if you have come to know him personally, and been yourselves “won over” by him. So here is what I would I say. Try to know and love the Lord Jesus more and more, encountering him in prayer, at Mass, in the reading of the Gospel, in the faces of the lowly and the poor. Try also to be friends, with no strings attached, to all those around you, so that a ray of Jesus’ light can shine on them through your own heart in love with him. There is no need for lots of words; more important are your actions, your closeness, your desire to serve. Young people – and everyone else for that matter – need friends who can give a good example, who are ready to act without expecting anything in return. In this way, you will also help others to see how beautiful is the community of believers because the Lord dwells in its midst. And to see how beautiful it is to be part of the family of the Church.

  1. From Germany
    Heiliger Vater, viele Menschen sagen, sie brauchen Gott, Religion und Kirche nicht in ihrem Leben. Warum sollte man sich gerade für den katholischen Glauben entscheiden, was ist das wichtigste dabei? Und warum ist der Glaube für Sie so wichtig?

Holy Father
Faith is essential; it gives me life. I would say that faith is like the air we breathe. We don’t think, with every breath we take, how necessary air is, but when it isn’t there, or it isn’t clean, we realize right away how important it is! Faith helps us to grasp the meaning of life: that there is Someone who loves us infinitely and that Someone is God. We can recognize God as our Creator and our Saviour; we can love God and accept that our life is his gift. God wants to enter into a living relationship with us. He wants to build relationships, and we are called to do the same. A person cannot believe in God and then think that he or she is an only child! All of us are children of God. We are called to make up God’s family, the Church, the community of brothers and sisters in Christ. As Saint Paul says (Eph 2:19), we are “members of the household of God”. And in this family of the Church, the Lord nourishes his sons and daughters with his word and with his sacraments.

  1. From Serbia
    Szentatya, a mi ministránsi szolgálatunk szép, nagyon szeretjük. Szolgálni akarjuk az Urat és felebarátunkat. De jót tenni nem mindig könnyű, nem vagyunk még szentek. Hogyan fordíthatnánk át szolgálatunkat a mindennapi életben a szeretet konkrét tetteire az életszentség felé vezető úton?

Holy Father
Yes, it does take effort to keep doing good and to become saints… I see that you servers are committed to taking this path. The Lord Jesus gave us a simple plan for advancing in the way of holiness: the commandment of love of God and of neighbor. Let us make an effort to deepen our friendship with God, to be grateful for his love and to want to serve him in all things. In this way, we cannot help but share the gift of his love with others. To make the commandment of love all the more concrete, Jesus gave us the works of mercy. They are demanding yet within the reach of all. We have only to start asking ourselves: “What can I do today to meet the needs of my neighbor?” It makes no difference whether it is a friend or a stranger, a countryman or a foreigner. Believe me, by doing this, you can become real saints, men, and woman who transform the world by living the love of Christ.
Thank you for this conversation!
[01194-EN.01] [Original text: Plurilingual] © Libreria Editrice Vatican

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Jim Fair

Jim Fair is a husband, father, grandfather, writer, and communications consultant. He also likes playing the piano and fishing. He writes from the Chicago area.

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