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Don’t just look at problems, get to work: Pope urges youth

Pope Francis meets children as he arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

I.Media - Isabella H. de Carvalho - published on 04/23/24

In a meeting with students and young people, Pope Francis encouraged them to be active participants in creating a better and more peaceful future.

The Pope urged young people to remember their peers in Gaza, who don’t have the chance to smile as they “suffer under machine gun fire.” He made this invitation as he met with a group of some 6,000 teachers and students from the Italian network “Schools for Peace” (“Scuole per la Pace”), in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall on April 19, 2024.

According to Hamas, the Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip has claimed almost 34,000 lives since the terrorist attack on October 7, many of which were young people.

During his audience with the members of this network, which was set up in 1986 and brings together 700 schools in Italy, the Pope made several references to children who are victims of war.

“Think of the children who are in war, think of the Ukrainian children who have forgotten how to smile… Pray for these children, keep them in your heart … the children who are at war. Think of the children of Gaza, under fire, hungry …,” he told his guests, who waved banners saying, “Thank you Pope Francis.” 

Calling on young people to be “impassioned by the dream of peace,” the Pontiff invited them to observe a moment of silence. “Now a moment’s silence, and each one of you, think of the Ukrainian children and the children of Gaza …,” he said.

Before his arrival, the crowd had heard speeches on the theme of peace. 

“In this time, still marked by war, I ask you to be artisans of peace; in a society still imprisoned by the throwaway culture, I ask you to be protagonists of inclusion; in a world traversed by global crises, I ask you to be builders of the future, so that our common home may become a place of fraternity.” 

You are protagonists of the future

“I would like to pause briefly to tell you something I believe very much: that you are called – listen carefully – you are called to be protagonists and not spectators of the future,” the Pope encouraged them, asking his audience to repeat it multiple times.

He was referring to issues facing the world today such as “the environmental crises, the economic crisis, the political and social crises.” 

“We cannot simply delegate the worries for the ‘world that will come’ and for the resolution of its problems to the designated institutions and to those who have particular social and political responsibilities,” the Pope said. 

Referring to the “Summit of the Future” to be held on September 22 and 23 at the United Nations in New York, Francis encouraged the young people to act, so that this initiative “does not remain ‘on paper,’ but becomes concrete and is implemented through processes and actions for change.”

This international event aims to bring about a “Pact for the Future,” to help governments and states make choices to protect future generations. 

The importance of doing

Seemingly active and energetic during the meeting, Pope Francis also encouraged young Italians to “connect and network,” asking them again to repeat it multiple times. “This is important. […] This means passing from ‘I’ to ‘we,’ passing from ‘I’ to ‘we’: not ‘I work for my own good,’ but ‘we work for the common good, for the good of all,'” he insisted. 

“Dear boys, dear girls, dear teachers, it is a dream that requires that we be awake, and not slumbering! Yes, because it is brought about by working, not sleeping; walking the streets, not lying on the sofa; using information media well, not wasting time on social media; and then – listen carefully – this type of dream is fulfilled also with prayer, that is, together with God, and not by our own strength alone,” the Pope said. 

PeacePope FrancisVaticanWar
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