The poor at the heart of WYD

JMJ day 4-593

 “Bota fé” is a common expression used by Brazilians that we have heard Pope Francis repeat often over the past few days. It means: “have faith” or “add faith”, which are necessary ingredients to be able to do anything, especially to live a happy life. Today was WYD here in Rio de Janeiro: there were hundreds of catechisms taking place all over the city, brought to life by the youth and their bishops, as well as many encounters with the Pope.

Since the rain hadn’t ceased, it was decided to have all the events of WYD at Copacabana, since the area that was planned to hold Saturday’s vigil and the Sunday Mass was completely flooded. The Pope himself wanted to go and meet the poor and went to visit them at their own houses, in the Varginha community, a little favela that represents in the heart of the Pope, all of the poor in Brazil. Welcomed most warmly by the people there, Pope Francis made a little tour of the Favela, shaking hundreds of hands and embracing countless babies. He talked about the importance of welcoming, against the culture of egoism, and then addressing particularly the youth, he said: “Look to be the first ones to bring good, don’t get accustomed to evil, but overcome it. The Church will accompany you, bringing the precious good of faith to you, of Jesus Christ.” 

“Today I say to you all, particularly those of you who live here in the community of Varginha: you are not alone, the Church is with you, the Pope is with you. I hold each one of you in my heart and I make your most intimate intentions my own: ones of gratitude for certain joys, pleas of help in times of difficulty, desires for consolation in moments of pain and suffering. I entrust all of these to the intercession of Our Lady of Aparecida, Mother of all the poor in Brazil.” Then, in great simplicity the Pope went to visit a family in that community, sharing their life with them for a moment and leaving them with his blessing. 

On his way back to Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis wanted to meet the Argentinian youth in the metropolitan Cathedral. Talking with arms outstretched, the Pope intimated what he himself was expecting after WYD: “I expect the youth to make some noise in the diocese”, that “the Church takes to the streets”, avoiding “mundanity, clericalism and closure”. “Faith in Christ is not a joke, it is a scandal. The Cross continues to be a scandal, but it is also the only secure way”. “Faith has to make some noise, shake things up; faith can’t be watered down”. The Pope thus appealed to the youth present to turn to the Beatitudes in the Gospel and concluded by asking, as always “pray for me, I need it”. 

And so the evening arrived; the long and beautiful Copacabana beach was alive with the voices and colours of the whole world: it is the celebration for the welcome of the Pope, where finally the Holy Father meets all the pilgrims who have come to Rio: nearly one million people were gathered around the Pope who embraced them all, the near and the far, with the “heart of a Shepherd”. “Christ the Redeemer, from the tip of Mount Corcovado, welcomes us all to the beautiful city of Rio!”. He then expressed his thanks to Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, who promoted the day, as well as to monsignor Orani João Tempesta, and everyone else who contributed to organising the event. 

Pope Francis then asked for a hearty applause for Benedict XVI, who was the one to invite the youth to this year’s WYD: “I asked Benedict to accompany us with his prayers and he is watching us right now” said the Holy Father.

In his greeting the Pope recalled the evangelical page of the call of the apostles: “Looking at this sea, the beach and all of you, what comes to mind is the moment where Jesus called the first disciples to follow him on the shore of lake Tiberius. Today Jesus is still asking us: Do you want to be my disciple? Do you want to be my friend? Do you want to be witnesses of my Gospel?” The Pope then turned to the youth saying: “at the heart of the Year of Faith these questions invite us to renew our Christian responsibility. Our families and local communities have passed on to you the great gift of faith; Christ has grown in you”. “With Him all of our life is transformed, it is renewed and we can look at reality with new eyes, from Jesus’ point of view, with His same eyes”. For this reason “today I say to you absolutely: ‘put Christ’ into your life and you will find a friend in which you can always trust; ‘put Christ’ and you will see the wings of hope grow, and you will be able to travel with joy along the path of the future; ‘put Christ’ and your life will be filled with His love, it will be a fruitful life”.

The whole of Brazil was then presented to the eyes of the Pope and the youth present through a series of choreographies and songs that remembered how faith in Jesus Christ was in the very act of founding the country. The celebration closed a long and busy day, full of emotions and encounters. 

Visit to the favela of Varginha

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On 1 September 2016 the

Pontifical Council for the Laity
ceased its activities.
Its responsibilities and duties
have been taken over by the
Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.