In his first general audience after the summer hiatus, Pope Francis focused his catechesis on his experience of World Youth Day in Rio. He outlined three elements of particular remembrance: welcome, celebration, and mission!
In his first general audience after the summer hiatus, Pope Francis focused his catechesis on his experience of World Youth Day in Rio. He outlined three elements of particular remembrance: welcome, celebration, and mission!
In most respects, Alitalia flight 4001 from Rio de Janeiro to Rome on Sunday night was nothing to write home about. The seats in economy class were fairly uncomfortable, and the food was merely adequate. The main course was a lukewarm square of lasagna roughly the size of a Ritz cracker.
I’ll say this for it, however: The in-flight entertainment was spectacular.
As is by now well-known, we were treated to a pope standing in the press compartment for an hour and 20 minutes, taking questions on every topic under the sun with no filters and no limits, speaking without notes and delivering straight answers. Among other things, one had to be awed by the energy of the 76-year-old pontiff, who had just finished a grueling seven-day trip to Brazil yet seemed capable of going on almost indefinitely.
As I said Monday on CNN with Michael Holmes, when you cover the Vatican, you sometimes sit around late at night dreaming of moments like this, but you never really think you’ll live to see them happen.
While the headline was the pope’s comments on gays — “Who am I to judge?” — it was a sprawling conversation, with the full transcript extending to almost 10,000 words. It’s dangerous with such a wide range of topics to try to reduce the pope’s message to a single word, but in this case, I believe it can be done without leaving anything essential out of view.
The one-word interpretive key to Francis’ news conference and arguably to his entire papacy to date: “mercy.”
As I’ve written before, each recent pope has had a catchphrase that represents his core emphasis. For John Paul II, it was “Be not afraid!”, a call to revive the church’s missionary swagger after a period of introspection and self-doubt. For Benedict, it was “reason and faith,” the argument that religion shorn of self-critical reflection becomes extremism while human reason without the orientation of ultimate truths becomes skepticism and nihilism.
For Francis, his signature idea is mercy. Over and over again, he emphasizes God’s endless capacity to forgive, insisting what the world needs to hear from the church above all today is a message of compassion.
Sorting through all the comments Francis made during the on-board news conference, probably the single most revealing came in response to a question about divorced and remarried Catholics. We’ll come to the specifics on that issue another time, but it was the preface to his answer that provides the best window into his pastoral philosophy.
Here’s what he said, word for word, translated from Italian.
“Mercy is a larger theme than the question you raise [divorced and remarried Catholics]. I believe this is the time of mercy. This change of epoch, also because of many problems of the church — such as the example of some priests who aren’t good, also the problems of corruption in the church — and also the problem of clericalism, for example, has left many wounds, many wounds. The church is a mother: It must reach out to heal the wounds, yes? With mercy. If the Lord never tires of forgiving, we don’t have any other path than this one: before anything else, curing the wounds, yes? It’s a mother, the church, and it must go down this path of mercy. It must find mercy for everyone, no? I think about how when the Prodigal Son returned home, his father didn’t say: ‘But you, listen, sit down. What did you do with the money?’ No, he held a party. Then, maybe, when the son wanted to talk, he talked. The church must do the same. When there’s someone … but, it’s not enough to wait for them: We must go and seek them. This is mercy. And I believe that is a kairos: This time is a kairos of mercy. John Paul II had this intuition first, when he began with Faustina Kowalska, the Divine Mercy … he had something, he intuited that it was a necessity of this time.”
Kairos is a deeply evocative Gospel term that means an appointed moment in the plan of God, as in Mark 1:15: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand.” The Greek term for “time” in that passage is kairos. In the Christian imagination, the term kairos conjures up a special moment in history when a particular aspect of God’s plan for salvation is unfolding.
Francis’ emphasis on mercy is nearly ubiquitous. In a recent essay for the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Enzo Bianchi, founder of the celebrated ecumenical monastery of Bose, offered a statistical analysis of the words used most frequently by Francis since his election. He found that the single most commonly used term was “joy,” more than a hundred times, followed closely by “mercy,” which the pope has used almost a hundred times.
This conviction that we are living in a kairos of mercy makes sense of everything else the pope said on the plane and, for that matter, most of what he’s said and done since his election in March.
It explains his unwillingness to pass judgment on gays, and it also explains his refusal to be drawn into a political diatribe when a Brazilian journalist asked him about recent laws in the country liberalizing abortion and permitting same-sex marriage. Asked why he didn’t address those issues during his trip, the pope said, “It wasn’t necessary to speak of them, but of the positive things that get young people going. Anyway, young people know perfectly well what the position of the church is.”
Pressed for his personal conviction, Francis didn’t duck: “That of the church. … I’m a son of the church.”
There you have it in a nutshell. Francis is no doctrinal radical, and there will likely be no substantive upheaval of the church’s positions on issues of gender and sex or anything else. On the one specific question Francis fielded along these lines, women’s ordination, he reaffirmed “that door is closed.”
The revolution under Francis is not one of content, but of tone. He believes it’s time for the church to lift up its merciful face to the world, in part because of its own self-inflicted wounds and in part because of the harsh and unforgiving temper of the times. This is a pope who will look for every chance to express compassion, steering clear of finger-wagging unless it’s absolutely necessary.
His focus on mercy also helps explain why the sacrament of confession is so important to him, why he made a point of hearing confessions before Mass during his first visit to a Roman parish May 31, something John Paul II and Benedict didn’t do. As I wrote July 26, it’s quite possible that when he went to Rio de Janeiro’s Boa Vista Park to hear five confessions that morning, in his own mind, it was the most important thing he did all week.
The importance of mercy is also expressed in the motto Francis took as pope: Miserando atque eligendo, which means, roughly, “by having mercy and by choosing.”
In the popular press, Francis has been dubbed “The Pope of the Poor” and “The People’s Pope,” and both capture something essential. If you want a formula that most clearly expresses the beating heart of Francis’ papacy, however, the best candidate is probably “The Pope of Mercy.”
This article was written by Vatican journalist John L. Allen Jr., senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnLAllenJr.
In a press conference held on Tuesday, July 30th, Archbishop of Rio and Chairman of World Youth Day Rio2013 LOC, Orani Tempesta, gave a positive assessment of the event. According to him, Pope Francis wowed everyone with his simplicity and his desire to always be near the people.
“It is God who makes things. We had changes since the announcement that WYD would be held in Rio de Janeiro. Even the Pope changed, but we managed to make a beautiful World Youth Day and serve all youth,” he said.
The Archbishop thanked the dedication of the volunteers, host families and all those involved in WYD. He also stressed the warm welcome Brazilians gave to all pilgrims.
“Copacabana never saw so many people at peace, happy and committed to building a better world. It was an event without violence, depredations. And these positive signs we saw in the youth must endure. We want these young people, driven by the World Youth Day, to remain players in a new world,” he said.
Tempesta also highlighted two special moments of the papal visit. According to him, whenever he passed by the Corcovado by helicopter, Pope Francis prayed and watched with admiration the statue of Christ the Redeemer. On another occasion, the Pope embraced a young child, while traveling by Popemobile to Palácio São Joaquim, in Gloria. “He cried a lot and told the Pope ‘Holy Father, I wish you well.’ This act moved Pope Francis and showed the love all Brazilians have for him” added the Archbishop.
NUMBERS OF WYD RIO2013
More than 3.5 million people participated in World Youth Day Rio2013, which included events in Copacabana, the Quinta da Boa Vista, Rio Centro and various parishes in the city.
July 23: 600,000 people attended;
July 25: 1.2 million people attended;
July 26: 2 million attended;
July 27: 3.5 million people attended;
July 28: 3.7 million people attended.
427,000 pilgrims registered, from 175 countries.
Countries with the highest number of entries: Brazil, Argentina, USA, Chile, Italy, Venezuela, France, Paraguay, Peru and Mexico.
55% of those registered were women, 45% men.
60% of the public registered are between 19 and 34 years.
Registered with hosting: 180.000 approx.
Accommodation capacity: 356,400.
Approximately 800 artists participated in the Main Events.
6,500 accredited journalists from 57 countries.
264 locals of catechesis, in 25 languages.
100 confessionals placed in the Vocational Fair and Largo da Carioca.
4 million sacramental bread produced, 800,000 for the Shipping Mass.
644 bishops enrolled, of whom 28 were cardinals.
7814 priests registered.
Economic impact: visitors spent 1.8 billion Reais (Source: Ministry of Tourism)
Urban Cleaning: the Comlurb collected 345 tons of organic waste and 45 tons of recyclable materials throughout the week of WYD. This number represents 10% less than it collected in New Year’s Eve in 2012/2013.
(CNS) Highlights of Pope Francis’ visit to Rio, during WYD Rio 2013
World Youth Day 2013 Flash Mob
More highlights of Pope Francis’ visit to Rio during World Youth Day 2013
Bishops at World Youth Day practicing the Flash Mob
This great interview in Spanish with Portuguese subtitles aired on Brazilian Television Saturday evening, July 27, 2013.
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has returned to Rome following his week in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro for the 28th World Youth Day.
Scores of young people from around the world had travelled to the Brazilian city to take part in the event, with as many as 3 million people attending yesterday’s closing Mass on Copacabana beach.
Now that his year’s WYD celebrations have concluded, those who were part of the team are looking back, and sharing their reflections on the week’s events.
Founder of Canada’s Salt and Light Television network Fr Thomas Rosica was the English-speaking assistant for the press conferences during the week’s events in Rio. He was also one of the organizers of the 2002 World Youth Day which was held in Toronto, Canada. Speaking with Sean Patrick Lovett, Fr Rosica shared some of his impressions of this year’s World Youth Day celebrations, noting in particular the transformation of Copacapana beach from one of the “wild places on earth” into a venue for prayer and celebration of the Sacraments.
“One of the gifts of WYD,” he said. is to come in to some of these wild places, these non-religious, these secular places, and really to consecrate them… to give them a whole new significance.”
When WYD comes to a place like Rio de Janeiro, Fr. Rosica said, it “not only claim[s] young people’s lives, but… cities.”
With regard to this WYD in particular, he said he felt as though it were the “herald of a new springtime in the Church.”
“We saw that happening in March with the election of Francis,” he added, “but this was like the Lord saying: ‘Spring is here: get with the picture.’” And certainly we had an opportunity to see that picture unfold before us.”
Listen to the full interview with Fr Thomas Rosica
Photo: Clergy attend the closing Mass of World Youth Day celebrated by Pope Francis on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro July 28. (CNS pho to/Paul Haring)
It’s hard to imagine when and where questions like “Is my faith still relevant?” can possibly receive some enlightening answers. But imagine an event that attracts millions of young people who come from all different parts of the world to gather in one place. And let that place be a beach in Rio de Janeiro. We’re all enjoying some sun, yes, but primarily, we are sharing our love of God in the presence of Pope Francis. Rio? Copacabana?? Really?
My first international World Youth Day experience was in Toronto in 2002. When John Paul II was blessing the crowds, his warmth extended towards me. He passed just five feet away from me, and I could swear that he looked directly into my eyes. It was moments like that that drew me closer to my faith. I became convinced that I wanted to be part of this Church with my whole heart. John Paul II graced Toronto with his holiness at the height of my faith journey. My faith is real, living, and when lived out fully, it can change others too. It can make them fall in love with the person of Jesus Christ again. And they want to follow Him in his Church.
Eleven years later, I am in Rio de Janeiro for my fifth international World Youth Day. But I am not here as a pilgrim, like I was in 2002. I am here for the main purpose of bringing World Youth Day Rio into people’s homes through a multi-media platform — television, radio and the internet. And so as over three million pilgrims walk through the streets, listen to catecheses, be with the Pope and with each other, I am in a room editing clips. Our team works 16-20 hour days, stopping only to eat and sleep. I hear the cheers as the Holy Father goes through the crowds, blessing them. But I can’t see him. Instead, I’m listening to his inspirational words from my hotel room editing system or from the media centre. I sit at a desk sifting through hours of emotional and inspiring footage of faithful young people whose lives are being transformed on a beach in Rio.
Yes, I feel a sense of loss. Maybe I had just missed opportunities for my own transformation, my own conversion of heart. But I am reminded of the bigger picture. Just as World Youth Day 2002 was the height of my faith journey, World Youth Day 2013 is the height for many others who travelled here. In Toronto, I was able to have the full World Youth Day experience thanks to people who worked behind the scenes. It’s likely that many of them chose to work behind the scenes because of a previous World Youth Day experience. And that experience compelled them to do hidden work so that others can experience it, too.
And so for similar reasons, I am working all day viewing the spectacular events through a 15 inch laptop screen. It gives me chills to think that any little work I do as part of the Salt + Light team contributes to the message the world receives that the Church is very much alive and young. In the big picture of things, our work together will inspire the next generation of Catholics who will use technology and the media to continue to spread the news that our faith is vibrant, real, and truly awesome.
This post was written by Richard Valenti, Senior Editor at Salt + Light Television
As Pope Francis was leaving the cathedral of St. Sebastian in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday following Mass with the bishops and priests, he met a couple who presented to him their own newly-born daughter who was born anacephalic (without a brain). Normally the baby would have died at birth but she was still alive. The parents did not wish to abort their child even though an abortion would have been allowed legally for such a case. The parents wished to welcome the gift of life. During the final mass of World Youth Day, Pope Francis welcomed this child during the offertory procession of the Mass as a gesture of welcome and offering of a life to God.
Distinguished National, State and Local Authorities,
Dear Archbishop of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro,
Dear Cardinals and Brother Bishops,
I am about to leave your country to return to Rome. I depart with many happy memories which I know will nourish my prayers. Already I am beginning to miss Brazil, this great people showing so much affection and friendship. I shall miss the natural and warm smiles I have seen in so many faces, and the enthusiasm shown by the volunteers. I shall miss the hope filling the eyes of the young people in the Hospital of Saint Francis. I shall miss the faith and joy shown by the residents of Varginha in the midst oftheir hardship. I know that Christ is truly present in the lives of countless young people and in the lives of many whom I have met during this unforgettable week. Thank you for the warm welcome and the friendship that have been offered to me. This too I shall miss.
In particular, I would like to thank Madam President for expressing the sentiments of the entire population of Brazil towards the Successor of Peter. I warmly extend gratitude to my brother Bishops and to their many collaborators for making this week a splendid celebration of the richness and joy of our faith in Jesus Christ. I thank all those who took part in the eucharistic celebrations and other events, and I thank those who organized them and those who worked to broadcast them through the media. Finally, I wish to thank all those who in one way or another rose to the challenge of hosting and organizing the large numbers of young people. And not least my gratitude goes tothe many people who prayed, often in silence and simplicity, for this World Youth Day to bean authentic experience of growth in faith. May God reward all of you, as only he can!
As I express my thanks and bid farewell, my thoughts turn to those who are at the heart of these celebrations: the young people! May God bless you for the beautiful witness of your lives and for your intense and joyful participation over these last few days. Many of you came here as disciples; I have no doubt that all of you will leave as missionaries.
Through your joyful witness and service, help to build a civilization of love. Show, by your life, that it is worth giving your time and talents in order to attain high ideals, it is worth recognizing the dignity of each human person, and it is worth taking risks for Christ and his Gospel. It is he that we have come to seek because he first sought us. It is he who has inflamed our hearts with the desire to take the Good News to the large cities and to the small communities, to the countryside and to all the corners of this vast planet.
I will always place my hopes in the young people of Brazil and in the young around the world:through them, Christ is preparing a new springtime all over the earth. I have seen its first fruits and I know that others will joyfully reap the full harvest.
Finally, my thoughts turn to Our Lady of Aparecida, to whom I also bid farewell. In that beloved Shrine I knelt to pray for the entire human family and in particular for all Brazilians. I implored Mary to strengthen you in the Christian faith, which forms part of the noble soul of Brazil, as indeed of many other countries; this faith is your culture’s treasure and serves as encouragement and support in the task of building a renewed humanity in harmony and solidarity.
As he departs, the Pope says to all of you affectionately: “see you soon”. He asks you not to forget to pray for him. The Pope needs the prayers of all of you. I offer you an affectionate embrace. May God bless you!
Photo: Pope Francis carries a bag as he boards a plane at Fiumicino airport in Rome July 22. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Dear Volunteers, Good evening!
I could not return to Rome without first thanking all of you in a personal and affectionate way for the work and dedication with which you have accompanied, helped, and served the thousands of young pilgrims, and for the countless little ways by which you have made this World Youth Day an unforgettable experience of faith. With your smiles, your acts of kindness and your willingness to serve, you have shown that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts20:35).
The service you have given during these days brings to mind the mission of Saint John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus. Every one of you, each in his or her own way, was a means enabling thousands of young people to “prepare the way” to meet Jesus. And this is the most beautiful service we can give as missionary disciples. To prepare the way so that all people may know, meet and love the Lord. To you who in these days responded with such readiness and generosity to the call to be volunteers for World Youth Day, I say: May you always be generous with God and with others: one loses nothing thereby, but gains great enrichment in life.
God calls you to make definitive choices, and he has a plan for each of you: to discover that plan and to respond to your vocation is to move toward personal fulfilment. God callseach of us to be holy, to live his life, but he has a particular path for each one of us. Some are called to holiness through family life in the sacrament of Marriage. Today, there are those who say that marriage is out of fashion; in a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of “enjoying” the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, “for ever”, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that seeseverything as temporary and that ultimately believes that you are incapable of responsibility, that you are incapable of true love. I have confidence in you and I pray for you. Have the courage “to swim against the tide”. Have the courage to be happy.
The Lord calls some to be priests, to give themselves to him more fully, so as to love all people with the heart of the Good Shepherd. Some he calls to the service of others in the religious life: devoting themselves in monasteries to praying for the good of the world, and in various areas of the apostolate, giving of themselves for the sake of all, especially those most in need. I will never forget that day, 21 September – I was 17 years old – when, after stopping in the Church of San José de Floresto go to confession, I first heard God calling me. Do not be afraid of what God asks of you! It is worth saying “yes” to God. In him we find joy!
Dear young people, some of you may not yet know what youwill do with your lives. Ask the Lord, and he will show you the way. The young Samuel kept hearing the voice of the Lord who was calling him, but he did not understand or know what to say, yet with the help of the priest Eli, inthe end he answered: Speak, Lord, for I am listening (cf. 1 Sam3:1-10). You too can ask the Lord: What do you wantme to do? What path am I to follow?
Dear friends, I thank you once more for all you have done during these days. Do not forget what you have experienced here! You can always count on my prayers, and I know I can count on yours.
Photo: Volunteers hold hands during Mass closing World Youth Day’s missionary week in Nilopolis, Brazil, July 21.(CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)