“With open hearts go to Him, take His yoke and learn from Him. Go to the Master to become His disciples and heirs of His promise of peace,” Pope Francis said in a message sent in Italian and Croatian to participants in the ‘Mladifest.’ The event is an annual prayer meeting for young people held August 1-6 at the famous shrine of Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The theme of this year’s pilgrimage is “Learn from me and you will find peace,” taken from the Gospel of Matthew (11:28-30). Referring to this passage, Pope Francis assured the young pilgrims that “the Lord does not reserve these words only for the apostles or for some of his friends, but he addresses them to all those who are tired and oppressed.”
“This is an invitation to move, not to stand still, frozen and afraid before life, and to rely on Him,” continued the pontiff. “It is not enough to get out of ourselves, we also need to know where to go, because there are so many deceptive goals that promise a better future, however, they leave us in the loneliness of before,” added the head of the Catholic Church, stressing that Jesus asks them to walk towards Him.
Pope Francis highlighted that the “true remedy for humanity’s wounds” is “brotherly love” based on the love of God. However, he warned that “to learn, first of all, one must be humble and recognize one’s own ignorance and pride that make us think we can do everything on our own and in our own strength.”
“Beloved, do not be afraid, go to Him with all that you are carrying in your heart, He is the only Lord who offers true refreshment and true peace,” the pontiff said, calling on young people to follow Mary’s example and entrust themselves to her. He signed the message, dated July 16, the solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome.
The Shrine of Medjugorje
Long viewed with suspicion by the Holy See, the Medjugorje shrine is experiencing a better reputation since Pope Francis authorized pilgrimages there on May 12, 2019, recognizing the “spiritual and pastoral fact” that the place represents for many Catholics.
For all that, the Marian apparitions that make the place famous have so far never been recognized by the Church and many grey areas remain. According to a book published in December 2021, no miracle has been officially recognized in Medjugorje. The former priest Tomislav Vlasic, who accompanied the visionaries, was excommunicated on October 23, 2020.
Nevertheless, this popular place of spirituality still attracts huge crowds from all over the world every year, especially from Italy and Eastern Europe. According to the Mladifest website, this year will be the 33rd Youth Festival – the first one was held in 1989 – and is expected to gather about 50,000 young people.