Pope Francis recalled his visit to Rio de Janeiro today, thanking his Brazilian hosts for their warm welcome and describing World Youth Day celebrations there as a great party of faith.
The Pope made his remarks this morning during his weekly public audience in St Peter’s Square.
“WYD [World Youth Day] is always a party,” the Pope said, “because when a city fills up with boys and girls who roam the streets with flags from all over the world, greeting each other, embracing each other, this is a true party.”
“But then there is the greater party,” he said, “which is the party of faith, when together everyone praises the Lord, sings, listens to the word of God, remains in silent adoration.”
“All this is the culmination of WYD,” he said.
The Pope thanked all those responsible for planning and executing the event, especially ordinary people who brought foreign pilgrims into their homes.
“The welcome by Brazilian families and parishes was one of the most beautiful characteristics of this WYD,” he said. “Good people, these Brazilians. Good people! They truly have a great heart.”
Pope Francis said such a welcome is vital to the success of any pilgrimage, transforming the inconveniences of travel into “occasions for acquaintance and friendship”.
“Bonds are formed that then last, above all in prayer,” he said. “In that way, too, the Church grows all over the world, like a network of true friendships in Jesus Christ, a network that frees you even as it catches you.”
The Pope stressed the missionary nature of World Youth Day, and insisted that “even a boy, a girl, who in the eyes of the world counts for little or nothing, in the eyes of God is an apostle of the kingdom, a hope for God”.
“Do you want to be a hope for God?” he asked young people in the crowd, repeating the question in various forms and urging them to shout more loudly in response.
Toward the end of the audience, the pope renewed his call on all Catholics to observe September 7 as a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, urging those in Rome to join him that evening for a vigil in St Peter’s Square, and inviting non-Catholics to “join in this moment, in their own places and ways”.
He added that all should pray as well for “peace in our hearts, because peace begins in the heart”.
Greeting Arabic-speaking pilgrims in the square, Pope Francis urged them to “be a presence of God’s mercy and bear witness to the world that tribulations, trials, difficulties, violence and evil can never conquer him who has conquered death: Jesus Christ”.