Pope Francis had simple — but profound — messages for young people on January 19, 2018, when he visited Hogar El Principito (“the Home of the Little Prince”), a home for young and abandoned children.
“I would like to encourage you to study,” he said. “Get an education, take advantage of the opportunities you have for schooling. The world needs you, young men and women of the first peoples, and it needs you as you are.”
The Pope spoke before the boys and girls and several hundred people who support the home. The children provided music, testimonials and a re-enactment of key points in the region’s history.
“Do not be content to be the last car on the train of society, letting yourselves be pulled along and eventually disconnected,” the Holy Father stressed. “We need you to be the engine, always pressing forward.”
He also encouraged the youth to listen to their elders and value their traditions. “Do not curb your curiosity. Get in touch with your roots, but at the same time open your eyes to new things; bring the old and the new together in your own way.”
The Pope said it was important for the youth to be “who you really are” because “we need you to be authentic, young men and women who are proud to belong to the Amazonian peoples and who can offer humanity an alternative for a true life.”
Taking note that some of the young people come from native communities, Francis decried the destruction of woodlands they had witnessed. He recalled that their elders had found food and medicine in those places, but now “those woodlands have been laid waste by the intoxication of a misguided notion of progress.”
He continued: “The rivers that hosted your games and provided you with food are now muddied, contaminated, dead. Young people, do not be resigned to what is happening! Do not renounce the legacy you have received from your elders, or your lives and dreams.”
“The young of the first people” can play an important role in the future by teaching the rest of society “a way of life based on protection and care, not on the destruction of everything that stands in the way of our greed,” according to the Pope.