“I have also come here to learn; yes, to learn from you, to learn from your faith, your strength in the face of adversity,” Pope Francis told thousands of young Colombians gathered in the plaza of the Cathedral of Bogota on September 7, 2017.
“You have endured difficult and dark moments,” he continued, “but the Lord is near you, in the heart of every son and daughter of this country.”
Pope Francis continued that young people “have a particular ability of recognizing the suffering of others,” noting that “volunteer workers around the world depend on thousands of you who give up your own time, your own comforts and plans, and allow yourselves to be moved by the needs of the most vulnerable, to whom you dedicate yourselves.”
He told the youth that it is easy for them to encounter one another.: “All you need is a good coffee, a good drink or any other excuse to meet. The young agree on music, on art… Even a final between Atlético Nacional and América de Cali is an opportunity to be together!”
However, he encouraged the young in the crowd to action: “Allow the suffering of your Colombian brothers and sisters to strike you and mobilize you! Help us, your elders, not to grow accustomed to pain and neglect.”
English translation provided by the Vatican of Pope Francis’ remarks at the Cathedral of Bogota, September 7, 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
I greet you with great joy and I thank you for your warm welcome. “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you” (Lk 10:5-6).
Today I enter this house of Colombia, saying to you: Peace be with you! This was the way of greeting of every Jew, and of Jesus too. I offer this greeting because I wanted to come here as a pilgrim of peace and hope, and I desire to experience these moments of encounter with joy, giving thanks to God for all the good he has done in this nation, in every one of your lives.
I have also come here to learn; yes, to learn from you, to learn from your faith, your strength in the face of adversity. You have endured difficult and dark moments, but the Lord is near you, in the heart of every son and daughter of this country. He is not selective, he does not exclude anyone but embraces all; and we are all important and essential to him. During these days I would like to share with you the most important truth: that God loves you with the love of a Father who encourages you to continue looking for and desiring peace, that peace which is authentic and abiding.
I see many young people here, who have come from all over the country: from cachacos, costeños, paisas, vallunos, llaneros. For me it is always a pleasure to meet young people. Today I say to you: keep joy alive; it is a sign of a young heart, of a heart that has encountered the Lord. No one can snatch this away from you (cf. Jn 16:22). Do not let anyone rob you of joy; look after that joy which unites everyone in the knowledge of being loved by the Lord. The flame of the Lord Jesus’ love makes this joy burst forth, and is sufficient to set the whole world ablaze. How could you not be capable of changing this society and accomplishing all you decide to do! Do not be afraid of the future! Dare to dream big! I want to invite you to that great dream today.
You, dear young people, have a particular ability of recognizing the suffering of others; volunteer workers around the world depend on thousands of you who give up your own time, your own comforts and plans, and allow yourselves to be moved by the needs of the most vulnerable, to whom you dedicate yourselves. But this can also emerge in contexts where death, pain and division have impacted you so deeply that they have left you half-dazed, as if numb. Allow the suffering of your Colombian brothers and sisters to strike you and mobilize you! Help us, your elders, not to grow accustomed to pain and neglect.
You, also, young men and women who live in complex environments, with varying realities, and who come from a wide range of family situations, have grown used to seeing that not everything is black and white; you have seen that daily life is made up of a broad scale of grey tones, and that this can expose you to the risk of falling into a climate of relativism, thus discarding that potentiality which young people have, of perceiving the pain of those who suffered. You have the capacity not only to judge, to point out mistakes, but also that other beautiful, constructive ability: that of understanding. An understanding that even behind a wrong – for wrong is [always] wrong and cannot be just smoothed over – lies an endless number of causes, of mitigating factors. Colombia needs you so much to put yourselves in the shoes of those who, many generations earlier, could not or did not know how to do so, or did not come up with the right way to reach understanding!
For you, young people, it is so easy to encounter one another. All you need is a good coffee, a good drink or any other excuse to meet. The young agree on music, on art… Even a final between Atlético Nacional and América de Cali is an opportunity to be together! You teach us that the culture of meeting is not in thinking, living or reacting to everyone in the same way; it is rather in knowing that beyond our differences we are all part of something greater that unites and transcends us; we are part of this wonderful country.
Your youthfulness also makes you capable of something very difficult in life: forgiving. Forgiving those who have hurt us; it is remarkable to see how you do not get entangled in old stories, how you watch with surprise when we adults repeat events that divide us simply by being tied to resentments. You help us in the desire to leave behind what has hurt us, to look to the future without the burden of hatred; because you make us see the wider world which stands before us, the whole of Colombia that wishes to grow and continue its development; that Colombia which needs all of us, and which we older people owe to you.
And precisely for this reason you are facing the enormous challenge of helping us to heal our hearts; of passing on to us the youthful hope which is always ready to give others a second chance. An atmosphere of anxiety sickens the soul; it sees no way out of problems, and ostracizes those who try; it is an atmosphere that harms the hope every community needs in order to move forwards. May your dreams and plans give fresh life to Colombia, and fill the country with wholesome goals.
Only in this way will people be motivated to discover the country hidden behind the mountains, the one that goes beyond newspaper headlines and which does not seem to be a daily concern since it is so far away. That country which people do not see, that part of the social context which needs us: the discovery of the depths of Colombia. Young people’s hearts are spurred into action when faced with great challenges: how much natural beauty there is to contemplate, without needing to exploit it! How many young people, like yourselves, need your outstretched hand, need your shoulder so as to discern a better future!
Today I wanted to spend this moment with you; I am certain that you have the potential needed to build the nation we have always dreamed of. Young people are the hope of Colombia and of the Church; in your walking and in your steps we can glimpse the steps of the Messenger of Peace, the One who brings us Good News.
Dear brothers and sisters of this beloved country, I now direct some words to all of you: children, young people, adults and the elderly, as someone bringing hope to you. Do not let difficulties weigh you down; may violence not break you; may evil not overwhelm you. We believe that Jesus, with his love and mercy that remain forever, has conquered evil, sin and death. All we need to do is go out to meet him. I invite you not to be just dutiful but to be committed to renewing society, so that it will be just, stable and fruitful. From this place, I encourage you to entrust yourselves to the Lord, who is the only one who sustains us and inspires us to contribute to reconciliation and peace.
I embrace every one of you, the sick, the poor, the marginalized, those in need, the elderly, those who are housebound… all of you; you are all in my heart.
And I ask God to bless you. And, please, do not forget to pray for me.