(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday urged the young people of Bosnia-Herzegovina to be protagonists in the building of a more just, dignified and peaceful society in their country. During the final event of his one-day visit to the capital, Sarajevo, the Pope listened to several young Catholic and Orthodox men and women describe the difficulties they face in challenging prejudices and promoting a culture of dialogue and respect in the ethnically divided nation.
As he did earlier in the afternoon with priests and religious in Sarajevo Cathedral, the Pope set aside his prepared text and responded to questions posed by the young people about how they should try and live their faith in contemporary society. He urged them, as the first post-war generation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, to act with honesty and integrity, building bridges between people and helping to promote a culture of peace.
In his prepared text, which was delivered as read, the Pope said he hoped the young generations may be offered “real prospects for a dignified future” in Bosnia-Herzegovina, thus avoiding what he termed “the sad phenomenon of mass migration”. Local institutions, he said, are called upon to put in place timely and courageous plans that will help young men and women to realize their legitimate aspirations for the future.
The local Church, Pope Francis said, can also contribute to this ideal through pastoral projects, focused on educating the civic and moral conscience of the youth. The Church’s commitment can already be seen, he said, especially through the work of Catholic schools, which are rightly open, not only to Catholics, but to students of other Christian communities and other religions too.
Alongside the economic difficulties and high unemployment rates in the country, the Pope also spoke of “a crisis of moral values and a diminished sense of the purpose of life” facing people in Bosnia-Herzegovina today. Some young people, he said, may give in to the temptation to flee, or become self-absorbed, taking refuge in alcohol, drugs, or ideologies which preach hatred and violence. These are realities which I know well, he added, because they were “unfortunately also present in Buenos Aires, where I come from”. But the Pope encouraged his young audience to let the strength of their Christian faith “flourish without fear”, enabling them to “sow seeds of a more just, fraternal, welcoming and peaceful society”. Praising them for their ecumenical and interreligious efforts, Pope Francis said if they are open to Christ, they can overcome pessimism, becoming instead prophets and witnesses to hope.
Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’ prepared speech to the young people at the John Paul II Youth Centre in Sarajevo
Dear Young Friends,
I have greatly wished to have this meeting with you, young men and women of Bosnia and Herzegovina and nearby countries. I offer to each one of you a warm greeting. Being here in this Centre dedicated to Saint John Paul II, I cannot forget how much he did for young people, meeting them and encouraging them all around the world. To his intercession I entrust each of you, as well as every initiative which the Catholic Church has undertaken in your land to express her closeness to young people and indeed her confidence in them. We are on this journey together!
I know the doubts and the hopes that you have in your hearts. Some of these have been expressed by Bishop Marko Semren and your representatives, Darko and Nadežda. In a special way, I join you in hoping that new generations may be offered real prospects for a dignified future in your country, thus avoiding the sad phenomenon of mass migration. In this regard, institutions are being called upon to put in place timely and courageous plans that will help young men and women to realize their legitimate aspirations; they will thus be able to contribute energetically to the upbuilding and growth of the country. The local Church, for her part, can contribute by means of suitable pastoral projects, focusing on educating the civic and moral conscience of the youth, and so help them to be protagonists in society. The Church’s commitment can already be seen, especially through the precious work of her Catholic schools, which are rightly open not only to Catholic students but to students of other Christian communities and other religions. However, the Church must always dare to hope for more, starting from the Gospel and driven by the Holy Spirit who transforms persons, society, and the Church herself.
Young friends, you also have a decisive role to play in confronting the challenges of our times: certainly material challenges, but more so those which concern the vision of the human person. In fact, along with economic problems, difficulty in finding work and the consequent uncertainty regarding the future, there is a crisis of moral values and a diminished sense of the purpose of life. Faced with this critical situation, some may give in to the temptation to flee, to avoid the problems, becoming self-absorbed, taking refuge in alcohol, drugs, or ideologies which preach hatred and violence. These are realities which I know well because they were unfortunately also present in Buenos Aires, where I come from. Thus I encourage you not to let yourselves be overcome by the difficulties, but to let the strength that comes from your being human and Christian flourish without fear; you will be then be able to sow seeds of a more just, fraternal, welcoming and peaceful society. Together with Christ, you young men and women are the vitality of the Church and society. If you let Christ form you, if you are open to dialogue with him in prayer, by reading and meditating upon the Gospel, you will become prophets and witnesses to hope!
You are called to this mission: to reclaim the hope in your present circumstances of being open to the wonders of living; the hope which you have to overcome the way things are; hope to prepare for the future marked by a more dignified social and human environment; hope to live in a more fraternal world which is more just and peaceful, more genuine, worthier of the measure of mankind. My hope is that you will be always more aware that you are sons and daughters of this earth which has given life to you. This earth asks you to love her and to help her rebuild, to grow spiritually and socially, also with the help of your ideas and your work. To overcome every trace of pessimism, you will need the courage to offer yourselves joyfully and with dedication to the building of a welcoming society, a society which is respectful of all differences and oriented towards a civilization of love. An great example of this way of living is seen in Blessed Ivan Mert. Saint John Paul II Beatified him in Banja Luka. May he always be an example for you and be your protector.
The Christian faith teaches us that we are called to an eternal destiny, to be sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters in Christ (cf. 1 Jn 3:1), who create fraternity for the love of Christ. I am so pleased by the ecumenical and interreligious works taken up by you, young Catholics and Orthodox, with the involvement of Muslim young people as well. The John Paul II Youth Centre plays a central role in this important work, with initiatives that deepen mutual understanding and solidarity, allowing the various ethnic and religious groups to coexist peacefully together. I encourage you to continue this work, dedicating yourselves to common projects with real gestures that show your closeness and support to the poorest and most needy.
Dear young people, your joyful presence, your thirst for truth and high ideals are signs of hope! Being young does not mean being passive, but rather means being tenacious in your efforts to achieve important goals, even if this comes at a price. Being young does not mean closing your eyes to difficulties: instead, it requires a refusal to compromise or be mediocre. It does not mean escaping or fleeing, but engaging rather in solidarity with everyone, especially the weakest. The Church counts on you and will continue to count on you who are generous and capable of great energy and noble sacrifices. For this reason, together with your pastors I ask you: do not isolate yourselves, but rather be ever more united among yourselves so that you may enjoy the beauty of fraternity and be always more fruitful in your actions.
Everyone will see that you are Christians by how you, young Christians of Bosnia and Herzegovina, love one another and how committed you are to service. Be not afraid; do not flee from reality; be open to Christ and to your brothers and sisters. You are a vital part of that great people who make up the Church: a universal people, a people in whom all nations and cultures can receive God’s blessing and can discover the path to peace. With this people, each of you is called to follow Christ and to give your life to God and to your brothers and sisters, in the way that the Lord will reveal to you, or perhaps is revealing to you now! Will you respond? Do not be afraid. We are not alone. We are always in the presence of God our heavenly Father, with Jesus our Brother and Lord, in the Holy Spirit; and we have the Church and Mary our Mother. May she protect you and always give you the joy and courage to witness to the Gospel.
I bless each of you, and I ask you please to pray for me.
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