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Dear Young People!
Here is the day awaited by you all: the opening of the 28th World Youth Day. Welcome to Rio de Janeiro, welcome to this Brazilian metropolis of extraordinary beauty, dominated by the statue of Christ the Redeemer of the Shrine of Corcovado. In the forthcoming days this city will be the capital of Catholic youth, gathered here from the most remote corners of the planet. After a long and demanding journey of preparation in your parishes and your communities, you are gathered here – a young Church, full of joy of the faith and of missionary outburst!
The words of the Psalmist encourage us: “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118:24). Dear young people, on behalf of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Vatican dicastery to which the Holy Father entrusted the organization of the World Youth Day, I give you a cordial welcome and address to you an affectionate greeting. A grateful thought goes to your bishops, priests, men and women religious, as well as to the lay formators who accompanied and guided you on the itinerary of spiritual preparation in view of this great adventure of faith, which we will live together here at Rio during these days. The Lord has so many surprises in store for each one of us! For all of you they will be unforgettable days, days of important discoveries, days of decisive choices for your life!
Rio’s is a particular WYD: after 26 years the World Youth Day returns to Latin America, a young continent, a continent of hope. It is worthwhile to recall the words of Blessed John Paul II addressed to young people during the WYD of Buenos Aires back in 1987: “I wish to repeat to you, once again –as I said to you on the first day of my pontificate – that “you are the hope of the Pope,” “you are the hope of the Church” … Yes, said the Pope, I also wish to repeat with you: “Latin America: be yourself! In your fidelity to Christ, resist those who wish to suffocate your vocation of hope.” 1 Rio’s WYD is particular also because, desired and prepared by Pope Benedict XVI, it will be presided over by Pope Francis, the first Latin American Pope. Truly, the ways of the Lord are inscrutable!
This WYD is being held at the feet of the imposing statue of Christ the Redeemer of the Corcovado. He is the real protagonist of this event! His heart beats with infinite love for each one of you and his wide open arms are ready to welcome you all! During this WYD, allow yourselves to be embraced by Christ! Entrust to Him your every desire, your plans for the future, your most profound joys; entrust to Him also the most difficult choices you are called to make, your fears and the anxieties that dwell in your young hearts! Youth is, in itself, a huge richness: you have it and you must make it fructify! Entrust it to Christ! Whoever chooses Christ loses nothing, absolutely nothing, but – on the contrary – gains everything and finds true happiness and the fullness of life!
The theme guiding this WYD – as you know – is the missionary mandate that Christ entrusted to his Church: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (cf. Matthew 28:19). The mission is the raison d’etre of the Church and of every Christian!
We are all invited to be salt of the earth and light of the world! During this WYD, Christ is calling us to come out of ourselves — as Pope Francis often says –, he asks us to abandon our comfortable life, to pull down the walls of our egoism, to go with courage to the geographic and existential “peripheries” of the world, taking Christ and his Gospel. During these days, let us make our own the words of Saint Paul: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” ( 1Corinthians 9:16) and let us cry out to the world – as the Holy Father asks us – “it is good to follow Jesus … Jesus’ message is good; it’s good to come out of ourselves, to the peripheries of the world and of existence to take Jesus!” 2
Christ needs you, young people! He needs your young faith, full of joy and missionary enthusiasm! Christ counts on each one of you!
Dear young people of the whole world! Rio’s WYD has begun!
I say again to you all: Welcome to Rio de Janeiro!
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1 John Paul II, Meeting with young people gathered at Buenos Aires for the 1987 World Youth Day, in “Insegnamenti”, X,1 (1987), pp. 1257;1260.
2 Francis, Homily of the celebration of Palm Sunday and of the Lord’s Passion, in “L’Osservatore Romano,” March 25-26 , 2013, p. 8.[Translation by ZENIT]