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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

General Audience with reflections about WYD2016

This morning's General Audience began at 9:30am in the Paul VI Hall where the Holy Father, Pope Francis met with groups of pilgrims and the faithful from Italy and from every corner of the world.

In his speech, the Pope focused his meditation on his recent Apostolic Journey to Poland for the XXXI World Youth Day.

After having summarized his catechesis in various languages, the Holy Father expressed personal greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.

The General Audience concluded with the chanting of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.

Catechesis of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the General Audience

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today, I want to reflect briefly on the Apostolic Journey that I have just recently completed in Poland.

The occasion for this voyage was the World Youth Day, 25 years after that historic celebration that took place in Częstochova shortly after the fall of the iron curtain.  Poland has changed over these past 25 years, Europe has changed, the world has changed, and this WYD became a prophetic sign for Poland, for Europe and for the world.  The new generations of young people, heirs and successors of the pilgrimage begun by Saint John Paul II, have given their response to the challenge of our day, they gave a sign of hope, and this sign is called fraternity.  In this world that is at war, we need fraternity, we need to be close to one another, we need dialogue, we need friendship.  This is the sign of hope: when there is fraternity.

Let us begin with the youth, who were the primary reason for this journey.  Once again, they responded to the call: they came from all corners of the world - some of them are still here! (he points out some of the WYD pilgrims in the Hall) - a festival of colour, of different faces, of languages, of various backgrounds.  I don't know how to do that: speak different languages, but they manage to understand one another!  And why?  Because they have a desire to travel the road together, to build bridges, a desire for fraternity.  They also came bearing their wounds, with their questions, but above all with the joy of meeting one another; and once again they formed a mosaic of fraternity.  We can think of it as a mosaic of fraternity.  An emblematic image of the World Youth Day is the multi-coloured sea of flags being waved by young people: in effect, at the WYD, the flags of various nations became more beautiful, were purified so to speak, and even the flags of nations that are at war with one another waved nearby to one another.  This is beautiful!  Even here, there are flags ... let's see them!

So, in this their great jubilee encounter, the youth of the world welcomed the message of Mercy, in order to take it everywhere in their spiritual and corporal works.  I thank all the young people who came to Kraków!  And I thank those who were united with us from every corner of the Earth!  Because in many countries, there were smaller World Youth Day celebrations taking place along with the one in Kraków.  May the gift that you have received become a daily response to the Lord's call.  A memory full of affection goes out to Susanna, the Roman girl from this Diocese who died suddenly after having participated in the WYD, she died in Vienna.  May the Lord, who certainly welcomed her into heaven, comfort her family and her friends.

During this journey, I also visited the Shrine of Częstochova.  Before the icon of the Madonna, I received the gift of gazing upon the Mother, who is in a particular way the Mother of all Polish people, from that noble nation that has suffered so much and, with the strength of faith and her maternal hand to guide them, their hands are always raised.  I greeted some Poles here in the Hall.  You are good, you are really good!  There, under that gaze, we understand the spiritual sense of the journey of this people, for whom history is tied indissolubly to the Cross of Christ.  In that place, we touch with our own hands the faith of the holy and faithful people of God who continue to hope, even in the face of trials; and who also continue the wisdom that creates balance between tradition and innovation, between memory and future.  Today, Poland reminds all of Europe that there can be no future for the continent without fundamental values, which in turn are centred on the Christian vision of mankind.  Among these values, there is mercy, of which there are two great figures among the children of Poland: Saint Faustina Kowalska and Saint John Paul II.

Finally, this journey also had a worldly horizon, a world called to respond to the challenge of the threat of a war in pieces.  Here, the great silence of the visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau was more eloquent than any words.  In that silence, I heard, I felt the presence of all the souls that passed through that place;; I felt the compassion, the mercy of God, that a few holy souls were able to support even in such abysmal surroundings.  In that great silence I prayed for all the victims of violence and war.  And there, in that place, I understood as never before the value of memory, not only as a means of recalling the events of the past, but as a warning and a responsibility for today and for tomorrow, because the seeds of hatred and of violence do not take root in the furrows of history.  In that memory of war and of so much woundedness, of so much suffering, there are so many men and women of our time, who suffer because of war, many brothers and sisters of ours.  Looking at that cruelty, in that concentration camp, I immediately thought about the cruelty of our day; they are so similar: not as concentrated as in that place, but spread out all over the world; this world that is sick with cruelty, with suffering, with war, with hatred, with sadness.  And for this reason, I ask you to pray: that the Lord will grant us peace!

I thank the Lord and the Virgin Mary for all of this.  And once again, I express my gratitude to the President of Poland and to the other Authorities, to the Cardinal Archbishop of Kraków and to the entire Polish Episcopate, and to all those who, in thousands of ways, made it possible for this event to take place - an event which offered a sign of fraternity and peace to Poland, to Europe and to the world.  I also want to thank the youth volunteers, who for more than a year have worked to bring this gathering to life; and also the media, those who work in the media: thank you very much for having said yes so that this Day could be experienced all over the world.  And here, I cannot forget Anna Maria Jacobini, an Italian journalist who lost her life in Poland, unexpectedly.  Let us pray also for her: she left us while she was serving us.

Thank you!
(Original text in Italian)

The Holy Father's catechesis was then summarized in various languages and His Holiness offered greetings to each of the groups of faithful in attendance.  To English-speaking pilgrims, he said:

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly those from Ireland, Sweden, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Aruba, Canada and the United States of America. In a special way, I greet the many groups of young people returning from our celebration of World Youth Day. With prayerful good wishes that the present Jubilee of Mercy will be a moment of grace and spiritual renewal for you and your families, I invoke upon all of you joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

To Portuguese-speaking pilgrims, the Holy Father added a special Message about the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro which will begin in a few days' time.

Now I want to send an affectionate greeting to the Brazilian people, especially to the city of Rio de Janeiro, who are hosting the athletes and spectators from all parts of the world on the occasion of the Olympics.  In a world that thirsts for peace, tolerance and reconciliation, I hope that the spirit of the Olympic Games may inspire you all, participants and spectators, to fight the good fight and together to complete the race (cf 2 Tim 4:7-8), desiring as your reward, not a medal but something much more precious: the achievement of a civilization in which solidarity reigns, based on the recognition that we are all members of the same human family, independent of our cultural differences, the colour of our skin or our religions.  For the Brazilians, who with their joy and characteristic hospitality have organized this Celebration of Sports, I hope that this may be an opportunity to overcome the difficult moments and to learn how to work in teams toward the construction of a more just and secure country, in hopes of a future that is filled with hope and joy.  May God bless you all!
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