This Monday, April 18, known as Monday of the Angel, the streets of Rome were full of groups of young people who were heading to the Vatican to participate in a meeting with Pope Francis in Saint Peter’s Square.
As Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, pointed out in his welcoming speech, it was the first public meeting hosted by this square for two yearsdue to coronavirus restrictions.
More than eighty thousand adolescents from the Italian dioceses traveled to Rome to meet the Pope in a pilgrimage promoted by the National Youth Ministry Service of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI). under the title “Follow me”.
After greeting those present from the popemobile, even reaching the Via della Conciliazione due to the number of people in the square, the Holy Father presided over this prayer meeting centered on the Gospel of Saint John, when the risen Jesus manifested himself to his disciples by the sea of Tiberias.
Addressing the adolescents, accompanied by their bishops, priests and other officials, Pope Francis assured that “this square has been waiting for a long time to be filled with your presence and with your enthusiasm”.
“Two years ago, on March 27, I came here alone to present to the Lord the plea of the world affected by the pandemic. Perhaps that night you too were at home in front of your televisions praying together with your families. Today, thank God, you are here, together, from all parts of Italy, in the embrace of this square and in the joy of Easter that we have just celebrated”, the Holy Father said, referring to the historic Urbi et Orbi blessing.
“It has happened to the square like we do when we fast, we really want to eat and when the fast ends, we eat more. This is why the square is more crowded than ever”, said the Pope.
“Do not be afraid of life”
The Pope then recalled the “terrible war” that Europe and other parts of the world are experiencing “where the injustices and violence that destroy humanity and the planet continue”.
Francis later reflected on the Gospel, when Peter and the other disciples fail to catch fish, noting that “the risen Jesus is there, on the shore, but they don’t realize it, they continue to feel alone and defeated.”
“But he challenges them to go further, to cast the nets again. So they do, and then everything changes: the nets start to fill with fish, to the point of not being able to pull them”, she said next.
In this line and using the example of the apostles, the Pope assured that “there are times when life puts us to the testmakes us touch our frailties with our own hands and makes us feel naked, powerless, alone”.
After the night the day always comes
“Don’t be ashamed to say: I’m afraid! The darkness scares us all, said the Pope, who invited young people to show their fears and share them with those around them.
The Pontiff explained to the teenagers that “darkness puts us in crisis, especially when we raise the nets and they are empty. So we don’t understand, we wonder why, but after night comes day, always, “he assured.
The Pope also spoke of the “smell” of young people, which allows them to identify the truth and meet Jesus. He asked them never to lose that “smell”, the same one that Saint John had in the Gospel passage, when he was able to recognize the risen Christ who was waiting for them from the shore.
In this way, the Pope encouraged young people to “look up” and follow the example of Peter, who had the courage to recognize Jesus even after having denied him.
“Do not be afraid of life, to be afraid of death, of the death of the soul, to the death of the future, to the closure of the heart. But not to life, life is beautiful. Life is there to live it and to share it with others, ”she assured.
“It is important that you move forward”, defended the Pope, who then encouraged young people to overcome fear with courage.
The words of the young
For their part, some young people also had the opportunity to say a few words and recount some personal experiences and experiences of faith.
This is the case of the Italian Alice, who recounted how she was able to recover from the death of her grandmother and that, thanks to her memory, she recovered her illusion as a catechism teacher.
The young Sofía also said that thanks to the support of a friend she was able to overcome the apathy and reluctance she suffered after the coronavirus pandemic and commit herself more deeply to her parish.
Samuele, from the Diocese of Milan, also told those present how his mother’s prayer and support helped him overcome a serious illness and a transplant.
One of the most emotional moments It was when young Mattia shared his experience with those present and talked about his father’s illness, who suffers from early Alzheimer’s. He assured that thanks to the help of Jesus and his mother he had been able to overcome it and assume the hard blow.