Youth of Morelia went all out in giving a welcome to Pope Francis this afternoon, both greeting him with endless cheering and applause and also performing a complex show with music, choreography, lights and a huge flowing banner depicting a dove.
The Pope was equally delighted to be among them — save one brief moment of tension at the end when one or a few over-exuberant youth nearly caused him to fall on top of a young person in a wheel chair, and the Pope scolded them, saying “don’t be egotistical.”
One of the most charming moments of the event was when the Pope coaxed two young women with Down Syndrome on stage with him, embracing them warmly to their visible delight.
The bulk of the Holy Father’s message was one of encouragement, as he reiterated over and over again that young people are the richness of Mexico, the same message he gave on his first day in the country.
They are a richness that must be transformed into hope, the way the minerals of a mountain must be mined and transformed, the Pontiff said, following his text but going off-the-cuff several times.
As he has done on other occasions, much of the Pope’s words were in response to the presentations given by young people before his address, as they spoke of the challenges they face in their faith and in their personal lives.
“You cannot live in hope, or look to the future if you do not first know how to value yourselves, if you do not feel that your life, your hands, your history, is worth the effort,” the Pope told them.
“The biggest threats to hope are those words which devalue you, that sort of suck the value out of you and you end up as if on the ground. Is that not true? Sort of wrinkled, with a saddened heart. Words which make you feel second rate, if not fourth rate. The biggest threat to hope is when you feel that you do not matter to anybody or that you have been left aside,” he said.
In contrast, holding fast to Jesus is the way to ensure hope, even when life is full of objective difficulties, the Pope assured.
“Hand in hand with him, we can move forward, hand in hand with him we can begin again and again, hand in hand with him we find the strength to say: it is a lie to believe that the only way to live, or to be young, is to entrust oneself to drug dealers or others who do nothing but sow destruction and death. This is a lie and we say it hand in hand with Jesus Christ we can say: it is a lie that the only way to live as young people here is in poverty and exclusion; in the exclusion of opportunities, in the exclusion of spaces, in the exclusion of training and education, in the exclusion of hope. It is Jesus Christ who refutes all attempts to render you useless or to be mere mercenaries of other people’s ambitions.”
The Pope said that the custodian of this richness is the family.
“In a family,” he said, “we learn closeness, we learn solidarity, we learn to share, to discern, to bear one another’s burdens, to fight and to make up, to argue and to hug each other and kiss each other. The family is the first school of the nation. And in the family is this richness that you have. The family is the one who watches over this richness. And in the family you will find hope because Jesus is there. And in the family, you will have dignity. Never, never leave aside families. The family is the cornerstone in the building of a great nation.”
Immediately following the event with the youth, the Pope returned by helicopter to Mexico City.
Wednesday promises to be one of the biggest days of the trip — it is also the final day — as he heads to Ciudad Juarez, on the border with the United States. From Juarez, he is set to depart tomorrow evening for Rome.
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