It may have been the most sparsely attended general audience of the year, but Pope Francis' message didn't lose its momentum.
He recalled his recent trip to Africa and admitted that visiting the Central African Republic was his top objective.
Praising the example of missionaries, the Pope said they gave up their lives to serve those who were most in need wherever they were. He recalled meeting an 81-year-old female religious who went to Africa as a missionary when she was just 24.
"And what do you do, sister? 'I am a nurse. And also, I studied a bit, and I became a midwife. And thanks to me, more than 3,200 children have been born.' She told me this. But ... a life for life, for the lives of others. And there are many like this sister, many sisters, many priests, many religious giving up their lives to proclaim Jesus Christ.”
The Pope explained that some Muslim women went to receive care from missionaries. He stressed that they respected their beliefs because they did not offer catechesis in exchange for their care.
"The missions. They are not for proselytizing because this sister told me that Muslim women come to them because they know they are good religious nurses who care for them and do not give catechesis in return. Testimony. Then, for those who want catechesis, they get it. But it's testimony. This is what the heroic missions of the Church consist of, proclaiming Jesus Christ with their lives.”
The Pope used the female religious' testimony to challenge young people. It's an ambitious request: They must decide what they will do with the rest of their lives.
"I tell the young people: Think about what your are going to do with your life. Think about this religious and so many like her that have given their lives. And many have died.”
Just days from the start of the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis concluded by calling on people to dedicate this time to the needy and to personal prayer and praying with others.