At 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, Pope Francis met in Saint Peter’s Square with 50,000 German-speaking altar servers from the dioceses of Germany – and also from the dioceses of Vienna and Linz, and from Latvia – on the occasion of their national pilgrimage to Rome, which is being held this week. The motto of the pilgrimage is “Free! Because It Is Right to Do Good” (cf. Matthew 12:12).
The recitation of Vespers began at 6:30 p.m., presided over by the Holy Father. Then, after a greeting from Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German Episcopal Conference and Archbishop of Munich and Freising, the Holy Father responded with an address to the questions posed to him by young people.
The following is a translation of the text of the homily and of the address that Pope Francis gave.
The Holy Father’s Homily at the Recitation of Vespers:
The words of Saint Paul which we just heard, taken from the Letter to the Galatians, attract our attention. The time is fulfilled, says Paul. Now God carries out his decisive work. What He has always wished to say to men – which He did through the words of the prophets — He now manifests with an evident sign. God shows us that He is the good Father. And how does He do this? How does He do it? He does it through the Incarnation of his Son, who becomes like one of us. Through this concrete man called Jesus, we can understand what God truly intends. He wants free human persons, because they always feel protected as children of a good Father.
To carry out this plan, God had needed only one human person. He had needed a woman, a mother, who would bring His Son into the world. She is the Virgin Mary, whom we honor this evening, at this celebration. Mary was totally free. In her freedom, she said “yes.” She always did good. Thus, she served God and men. She served God and men. Let us imitate her example, if we want to know what God expects from us, His children.[Original text: German] [Translation by ZENIT]
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The Holy Father’s Address:
Thank you so much for your visit!
I would like to offer you some points of reflection keeping present the questions that your representatives have asked me, these four …
You ask what you can do to be greater protagonists in the Church and what the Christian community expects from its altar servers. First of all, let us remind ourselves that the world is in need of persons who witness to others that God loves us, that He is our Father. All individuals in society have the task to put themselves at the service of the common good, offering the things that are necessary for existence: food, clothes, medical care, education, information, justice …We, the Lord’s disciples, have an added mission: to be “channels” that transmit the love of Jesus. And in this mission, you youngsters and young people have a particular role: you are called to speak of Jesus to your contemporaries, not only in the parish community or in your association, but especially outside. This is a commitment reserved especially for you, because with your courage, your enthusiasm, your spontaneity and ease of encounter you can reach more easily the minds and hearts of those who are estranged from the Lord. So many youngsters and young people of your age have an immense need of someone who with his or her own life tells them that Jesus knows us, that Jesus loves us, that Jesus forgives us, that He shares our difficulties with us and supports us with His grace.
However, to speak to others of Jesus, one must know and love Him, experience Him in prayer, in listening to His word. You are facilitated in this by your liturgical service, which enables you to be close to Jesus, Word and Bread of life. I will give you a piece of advice: re-read personally, in silence, the Gospel you hear in the liturgy, and apply it to your life, and, with the love of Christ received in Holy Communion, you will be able to put it into practice. The Lord calls each one of you to work in his field; He calls you to be joyful protagonists in His Church, ready to communicate to your friends what He has communicated to you, especially His mercy.
I understand your difficulties in combining the commitment of serving the Church with your various activities, necessary for your human and cultural growth. It is necessary to organize oneself a bit, to plan things in a balanced way … but you are German, and this comes easily to you! Our life is made up of time and time is a gift of God; hence, it must be used in good and fruitful actions. Perhaps many youngsters and young people waste too many hours in futile things: chatting on the Internet or on mobile phones, watching “soap-operas,” — products of technological progress, which should simplify and improve one’s quality of life, but sometimes turn attention away from what is really important. Among the many things to do in our daily routine, one of the priorities must be to remind ourselves of our Creator who makes it possible for us to live, who loves us and accompanies us on our way.
Precisely because God has created us in His image, we have received from Him the great gift of freedom. However, if it is not exercised well, freedom can lead us far from God; it can make us lose the dignity with which He has clothed us. Therefore, guidelines and indications are necessary, and also rules, both in society as well as in the Church, to help us to do the will of God, thus living according to our dignity as men and children of God. When freedom is not molded by the Gospel, it can be transformed into slavery: the slavery of sin. Our ancestors, Adam and Eve, removing themselves from the divine will, fell into sin, that is, into the evil use of freedom. Dear youth, do not use your freedom badly! Do not spoil your great dignity of children of God which has been given to you! If you follow Jesus and his Gospel, your freedom will blossom as a flowering plant, and will bear good and abundant fruits! Seek genuine joy, because He wants you to be men and women who are fully happy and fulfilled. Only by adhering to the will of God can we do well and be light of the world and salt of the earth!
May the Virgin Mary, who recognized herself as “handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38), be your model in serving God. May she, our Mother, help you to be, in the Church and in society, protagonists of good and peacemakers, youngsters and young people full of hope and courage.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]