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Monday, July 31, 2017

Greetings to Brazilian youth

The Holy Father has sent a Message to young Brazilians who are taking part in a national gathering taking place at the Aparecida Shrine at the completion of the Rota 300 programme.

Message of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
to young people gathered at the
Aparecida Shrine

Dear young people,

I send my affectionate greetings to all of you, youth of Brazil, gathered at Aparecida for the conclusion of the Rota 300 project which has taken part during the Marian Year that has commemorated the 300th anniversary of the discovery of the image of Our Lady in the waters of the Paraíba do Sul river.

For this occasion, I would like to point out one of the aspects of the Message that I addressed to you this year, for the XXXII World Youth Day: the Virgin Mary is a precious example for the youth and a source of help for our journey through life.  In order for you to realize this truth, you must reflect deeply; you can begin by contemplating the image of our Mother of Aparecida during the pilgrimage that you are experiencing at the national Shrine.  I myself did just that when I was there in 2007 on the occasion of the Fifth meeting of the Latin American Episcopal Conference and, later in 2013, during the World Youth Day that was held in Rio de Janeiro.

There, in the tender and maternal gaze of the dark-skinned Virgin, and in the eyes of the simple people who contemplated her, I was able to discover the secret to the hope that motivates the Brazilian people to face the challenges of each day with faith and with courage.  I was also able to contemplate there the renewing strength of a loving mother who moves the hearts of her children to discover within themselves a great missionary impetus, just as you yourselves did during your missionary week which has just concluded in the Paraíba valley.  Congratulations to all of you for your testimony!

Dear friends, amid the uncertainties and insecurities of each day, amid the precariousness that situations of injustice create around you, there is always one certainty: Mary is a sign of hope that will encourage you with great missionary strength.  She knows the challenges with which you live.  With her maternal attention and closeness, you will know that you are not alone.  In this sense, it is important to remember the story of those poor fishermen who, after spending hours on the Paraíba do Sul river without any results, threw their nets once more and were surprised to find that they had caught the image of Our Lady covered in mud.  First they discovered the body, then the head.  As I said to the Brazilian Bishops in 2013, this fact has in itself some very important symbolism: that which was divided returns to unity, just like the hearts of those fishermen, just like Brazil itself, once divided by slavery but now finding its unity in the faith which that black image of the Madonna inspires (cf Speech to the Bishops of Brazil, 27 July 2013).  For this reason, I invite you too to allow your hearts to be transformed by your encounter with Our Mother of Aparecida.  May she transform the social connections of your lives - networks of friendship, social connections, material and virtual friendships - connections that are often divided, into more significant connections, so that you may truly become a community!  Missionary communities that are on the move!  Communities that are both the light and the leaven of a society that is more just and fraternal.

Integrated into your communities in this way, do not be afraid to take risks and to commit yourselves to building a new society, permeating the social, political, economic and university environments with the strength of the gospel!  Do not be afraid to fight against corruption and do not allow yourselves to be seduced by it!  Trust in the Lord, whose presence is a source of life in abundance; that under Mary's mantle, you may rediscover the creativity and the strength you need in order to be protagonists of a culture of alliance and therefore be able to generate new paradigms that will guide the life of Brazil (cf Message to the Assembly of CELAM, 8 May 2017).

May the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin of Aparecida, renew within each one of you the gifts of hope and a missionary spirit.  You are the hope of Brazil and of the world.  And this novelty, of which you are the bearers, is already being built today.  May Our Lady, who in her youth knew how to courageously embrace the call of God in her life and to go out to meet those who were most in need, go always before you to guide you on your journey!  For this reason, I send my Apostolic Blessing to each of you, and I extend to your families and friends while asking you also to pray for me.

From the Vatican
3 July 2017

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