They didnt mind the wind or the cold weather. On the beach at Brazils Copacabana, at least two million youths welcomed Pope Francis for the prayer vigil, one of the most eagerly awaited events of WYD.
To get the celebration underway, a group of youths assembled a parish in front of the Pope, representing how each person contributes in making the church a reality. The youths also performed a reenactment of Francis of Assisi's life, and various pilgrims shared how faith allowed them to overcome difficult moments in their lives.
In his speech, Pope Francis asked pilgrims a very direct question, about how they live out their Christian faith.
"In my heart, do I have the tendency to go from one side to other? Do I respond to God and then to the devil? Do we seek God's seed while watering the thorns and weeds that grow in our hearts? Think about it, and respond in silence.”
The Pope then posed a very special metaphor. Since Brazil loves soccer so much, Pope Francis told the youths that they should 'train' their faith, just as soccer players train their skills. The reward, the Pope said, is far greater than winning the World Cup. But Pope Francis also offered the pilgrims some precious advice on how to follow Jesus.
"Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup! He offers us the possibility of a fulfilled and fruitful life; he also offers us a future with him, an endless future, eternal life. To follow Christ, we need these spiritual exercises: prayer, the Sacraments and helping others. Let's all repeat this. Prayer, Sacraments and helping others. I can't hear you, again: 'Prayer, Sacraments and helping others.'
Then, the Pope went on to tell the youths they should actively build a truly Christian society, adding they cannot let life pass them by.
"I ask you all to be protagonists of change. Continue to overcome apathy by offering a Christian response to political and social struggles, that are a reality in different parts of the world. I ask you to build the future. Make the world a better place. Please don't see life from afar. Live it. Jesus didn't stay out in a balcony. Instead, He got involved. Follow Jesus' example.”
To the thousands of youths present at Copacabana, and to all those who couldn't make it to Brazil, Pope Francis made a very special request. He asked them help build a Church that welcomes all of mankind. By quoting the Gospel, he invited everyone to 'go, and make disciples of all nations.”
AC / BB