“May Our Lady, the mother who was almost your age when she received the angel’s message and became pregnant, may she teach you to say, ‘Here I am,’ and to not be afraid. Take courage and go forth.”
This was the message of Pope Francis to 80,000 teenagers who went to Rome for an Easter pilgrimage whom he welcomed at St. Peter’s Square on April 18, 2022.
His Holiness greeted the pilgrims aged 12-17 from the popemobile on Easter Monday evening.
The youth pilgrimage was organized by the Italian Bishops’ Conference to reach out to young people whose education and lives were upended during the past two years of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his message, he explained that teens should reach out to each other especially those who are experiencing discouragement or anxiety, saying “crises must be brought to light to overcome them.”
“Life sometimes puts us to the test, makes us experience our weaknesses, makes us feel raw, helpless, alone… How many times in this [pandemic] period have you felt alone, far from your friends? How many times have you been afraid?” said the Pope.
People, according to the Pope, should not be afraid to admit their fears.
“Fears need to be spoken, fears need to be expressed so that they can be cast out. Remember this: fears must be said out loud. To whom? To dad, to mom, to a friend, to someone who can help you. They need to be brought to light… And when fears, which are in the darkness, are brought into the light, the truth breaks out.” He added.
The Pope said that just as children call to their mother in times of difficulty, so too do Catholics ask for the intercession of “our mom, Mary,” who was about the same age when she “accepted her extraordinary vocation to be the mother of Jesus.”
Pope Francis blessed the young people and said: “May the risen Jesus be the strength of your lives: go in peace and be happy, all of you!”
About 300 to 330 million tourists visit the world’s key religious sites every year including Rome, according to a 2017 estimate. Roman Catholics undertake the pilgrimage to Rome in order to be close to the centre of their faith. (Fatima Llanza/RCAM-AOC)