Francis lays on their shoulders the future of Colombia.
Everyone involved in the pope’s trip to Colombia this weekend — from the pope himself down to the volunteers on the street — are aware that his visit is meant to solidify the country’s yet-tenuous peace process.
This morning, in his first major meeting with the public, he revealed who he sees as the cornerstone of any future of peace: Colombian young people.
Speaking from a window balcony at the Cardinal’s Palace in Bogota, the pope quickly realized that a majority of the crowd were youth.
I could be blindfolded and realize that most of you are young, he joked, because only young people can make such a ruckus!
The crowd responded with an excited chanting of “esta es la juventud del papa!” (we are the pope’s young people!).
But despite the fun, enthusiastic, back-and-forth interchange, the pope made clear that he was asking the young people for serious work in order to take the future of their country in their hands.
“Do not be afraid of the future! Dare to dream big! I want to invite you to that great dream today,” he told them, assuring them that if they stay close to Christ, no one would be able to take away their joy.
Above all, he asked the youth for help — help in teaching older generations how to forgive, how to encounter one another, how to heal.
He reflected that their complex environments quickly teach them that “not everything is black and white.” This can “expose you to the risk of falling into a climate of relativism,” he warned. But he also pointed to a strength of the young: “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 to put yourselves in other’s shoes, Francis told them, to make up for what earlier generations were unable to do.
The pope kept the young people laughing and cheering as he pointed out how easy it is for youth to find an excuse to get together, to encounter one another.
What time did you show up here? he asked, as the crowd responded with fingers to show how many hours they’d been waiting to see him. “All you need is a good coffee, a good drink or any other excuse to meet,” he said. It can be music, art, or a good soccer game — anything is an excuse for the young to get 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,” he said
The pope lauded the youth for their ability to forgive, to even find surprise at how older generations hold on to resentments.
“[Y]ou 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,” he said. “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.”