"You have lofty ambitions and great dreams: Pursue them,” Pope Francis told around 50 young people from various African countries
“I invite you to dare to be ‘different,’ to bear witness to the beauty of generosity, service, purity, courage, forgiveness,” Pope Francis told young Africans who had come to meet him in light of Africa Day (celebrated on May 25), during an audience held at the Vatican on May 29, 2023, which I.MEDIA was able to attend. “It is wonderful to see you, coming as you do from various countries,” he told them, declaring that they were “a sign of [Africa’s] rich cultural diversity.”
Around 50 youth from various African countries turned up at dawn to meet the Pontiff at the Paul VI Audience Hall, accompanied by their parents and numerous African ambassadors to the Holy See. All dressed in their finest festive clothes, flags of Africa’s 55 countries in hand, the youth listened attentively to the Pope’s speech. They then greeted him one by one, as the Pontiff’s face lit up with a big smile.
“Be ambassadors of peace”
“Your beloved African continent is facing enormous challenges such as terrorism, bad governance, corruption, massive youth unemployment, migration, conflicts between communities and the climate and food crisis, among others,” Pope Francis said.
“You may feel helpless and discouraged, and think that your future is bleak and without prospects. Yet you are young and richly talented, you have lofty ambitions and great dreams: Pursue them,” Francis encouraged, saying they should never “accept defeat.”
The Pope praised the “great intelligence” of Africa’s youth, stressing that they should engage in their studies to serve the “human and integral development” of their societies. He also recalled the plight of “child soldiers and of the children who are victims of all kinds of conflicts and who need your friendship,” so that they “do not feel rejected and stigmatized.”
“Be ambassadors of peace,” the Pontiff repeated to his young guests, asking them to let themselves be enlightened by “the advice and witness of [their] elders.”
“Dialoguing with our roots, dialoguing with our elders and with our grandparents, with those who came before us, allows us to move forward,” he highlighted.
The Pope greets his audience, despite a busy schedule
Pressed for time by his busy schedule, the Pontiff slipped away after around 40 minutes, but not before taking time to chat with some of his guests. Surrounded by the four children of one of her employees, Morocco’s ambassador to the Holy See, Rajae Naji El Mekkaoui, was delighted with the meeting. She noted that the Pope had taken the time to enquire about King Mohammed VI’s health. “We feel he has a special affection towards us,” she said.
“It’s a beautiful moment for our children, I don’t think they realize it yet,” said an employee of the embassy of Burkina Faso, who came with his wife and four children aged between 6 and 15.
“He was nice,” whispered a little Congolese girl who lives in Italy, before hiding in her mother’s colorful dress; the mother noted how she was very touched by the encounter. “Now she has to go to school,” she stressed, laughing as she saw her daughter’s frown.