During Mass celebrated in St Peter's Basilica on Sunday, on the occasion of the diocesan World Youth Day and the Solemnity of Christ the King, the Pope exhorts today's young people to "stand upright while everything is falling apart", to be courageous in going "against the tide", "without shortcuts, without falsehood".
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCISFOR THE XXXVI WORLD YOUTH DAY21 November 2021
“Stand up. I appoint you as a witness of what you have seen." (cf. Acts 26:16)
Dear young people,
Once again I would like to take you by the hand and walk with you on the spiritual pilgrimage that leads to the 2023 World Youth Day in Lisbon.
Last year’s Message, which I signed shortly before the pandemic broke out, had as its theme: “Young man, I say to you, arise!” (cf. Lk 7:14). In his providence, the Lord was already preparing us for the grave challenge we were about to experience.
Everywhere in the world, we suffered the loss of so many of our dear ones and experienced social isolation. The health emergency was a particular setback for you young people, for your life is naturally directed outwards: to school or university, to work and social gatherings. You found yourselves in difficult situations that you were not used to facing. Those who found it harder, or lacked support, felt disoriented. We saw a rise in family problems, unemployment, depression, loneliness and addictive behaviour, to say nothing of growing stress, tensions, outbursts of anger and increased violence.
Yet, thank God, this was only one side of the coin. The experience showed us our fragility, but it also revealed our virtues, including our inclination to solidarity. All over the world, we saw great numbers of individuals, including many young people, helping to save lives, sowing seeds of hope, upholding freedom and justice, and acting as peacemakers and bridge builders.
Whenever a young person falls, in some sense all humanity falls. Yet it is also true that when a young person rises, it is as if the whole world rises as well. Young people, what great potential you have in your hands! What great strength you have in your hearts!
Today too, God is saying to each one of you: “Arise!” I fervently hope that this Message may help us prepare for new times and a new page in the history of humanity. Yet we cannot begin anew without you, dear young people. If our world is to arise, it needs your strength, your enthusiasm, your passion. I would like, then, to meditate with you on the passage of the Acts of the Apostles where Jesus says to Saint Paul: “Arise! I have appointed you to testify to what you have seen” (cf. Acts 26:16).
Paul’s witness before the king
The verse that has inspired the theme of the 2021 World Youth Day is taken from the testimony of Paul before King Agrippa following his imprisonment. Paul, formerly the enemy and persecutor of Christians, is now on trial precisely for his faith in Christ. Some twenty-five years later, the apostle recounted the story of his fateful encounter with Christ.
Paul states that he persecuted Christians, until one day while travelling to Damascus to arrest some of them, a light “brighter than the sun” shone around him and his companions (cf. Acts 26:13). He alone, however, heard “a voice”: the voice of Jesus who spoke to him, calling him by name.
Read the continuation here