Below is the Vatican-provided translation of Pope Francis’ prepared script to give to Kenya’s youth this morning in the Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi:
My Brother Bishops,
I thank you for your warm welcome this morning. It is wonderful to be with you, and to experience your vitality and joy, so beautifully expressed through song and dance. I wish to thank Bishop Anthony Muheria for his words offered on your behalf, and the young people who have shared their testimonies with us. It is not always easy to speak so openly about our lives and faith. But when we do, when we speak honestly of who we are, we come to know one another better and we deepen our friendship. We begin to see that we are not so different and that we are not alone. We are walking the same journey of faith.
As you know, this is my first visit to Africa, and you have made me feel at home. I ask you, however, not only to receive me, Francis, with such enthusiasm, but to receive the one in whose name I come, Jesus Christ. Because, that is why we are here together this morning, to stand strong in our faith, so that unafraid, we may live joyful and full lives according to God’s will for each of us.
This is the message I bring. This is the testimony I offer to you. I invite you, “at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ!” (Evangelii Gaudium, 3). Tell the Lord that you love him and that you wish to be faithful to him. I urge you, do not be Christians in name only, but in all your thoughts, words and deeds. This may seem difficult at times. We are often so busy and we leave little room for the things that matter most. Certainly, we can be busy with many good things, such as work, studies and the responsibilities of family and friendship. We think that God is always there, so he can wait, and when I find a little time, I will give it to him. But we all know what happens when we think this way. God loses first place in our lives, and life loses its flavour, its direction, its focus.
And so, we must fall in love with Jesus again every day, and give ourselves anew to him. For when we have a relationship with Jesus, we can see those things which draw us to God, and those that lead us away from him. Love changes us! Here is what a very wise priest, Father Pedro Arrupe, once said about this: “Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything”. Let Jesus be your first love, the Love which brings joy to all the other loves which you encounter on the path of life! May you find him in the Scriptures, and meet him in the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and confession.
When we know and love Jesus, we become one with him and his Body, the Church. We belong to him, and we belong to one another. How important this relationship is, which begins with faith given to us by God. It is a seed he plants and tends in order to bring forth a harvest worthy of heaven.
Jesus cares for us in two essential ways, through the Church and through our families. In the Church, we receive the gift of divine life through Baptism. We are strengthened in that gift by the Holy Spirit in Confirmation. We are nourished by the Eucharist and consoled by God’s mercy and forgiveness in Confession. And we can never forget the love and witness which come to us from our families, our priests and religious, our catechists and fellow parishioners, who daily grow, and frequently struggle, in their own lives of faith.
In our families, God teaches us to love him and how to live with one another in charity and peace. Like parish communities and institutions, our families are not always perfect, and are often reminders of the need for conversion, forgiveness, patience and mutual encouragement. Families are schools of prayer and mercy, where we learn how to live in the love which unites the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There, children learn God’s ways from their parents and grandparents, how to pray and, most importantly, how to forgive. But children also teach their elders. By their simplicity, humility and unconditional love, they remind all of us that Jesus calls us to become like children, “for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Mt 19:14). May you be good sons and daughters, loving parents to your children, attentive to the wisdom of your grandparents, and ever ready to reach out to the poor and those who do not have a family.
Our time together this morning will continue to be an encouragement for me throughout my visit to Africa. I ask you to accompany me with your prayers, because I need them so much. I would also like to ask you to do something: leave this place today with a new commitment to love Jesus, to rekindle that gift of faith which he has given you. By that love, and by your fidelity to the Gospel, you will be beacons of hope in Kenyan society. You will show that human dignity is worth more than possessions; that the family is the most essential cell of society; that chastity and marriage are gifts of God which not only fulfil the person, but enrich the community and strengthen relationships; that an honest society seeks not the profit or advantage of the few, but the good of all. You will draw people to the love of God which gives meaning and direction to our lives.
My friends, Kenya is a country blessed with natural beauty, bountiful resources and a long history. But its greatest treasure lies in its people, especially its elderly who preserve its wisdom, and its young who foretell its future. May Almighty God bless you, your families, and all the Kenyan people, and may he grant you peace, prosperity and great joy![Original Text: Italian] [Vatican-provided translation]