Monday, August 7, 2023

Pope Francis remarks on World Youth Day; explains openness of Church within a set of rules


Pope Francis speaking to reporters on his way back to Rome from LisbonPope Francis speaking to reporters on his way back to Rome from Lisbon  (VATICAN MEDIA Divisione Foto)

Pope: Lisbon WYD was a "beautiful" experience

During his in-flight press conference from Lisbon Pope Francis speaks enthusiastically about his experience with the hundred of thousands young people who joined the 2023 WYD.

By Lisa Zengarini

During his flight back to Rome from his Apostolic Journey to Portugal for World Youth Day 2023, on Sunday evening, Pope Francis said he was very positively impressed by the huge participation and enthusiasm shown by so many young people in Lisbon and also by the successful organization of the event, the best of all the ones he has attended so far (Rio de Janeiro, Krakow and Panama). 

“For me it was beautiful!”, he told journalists travelling with him in his customary post-visit press conference aboard the return flight to Rome.

Young people need to be accompanied

Commenting on the over a million youths joining the WYD last week, the Pope remarked “they are religious, they are looking for a non-hostile, non-artificial, non-legalistic faith, for an encounter with Jesus Christ”, which “is not easy”, he said.

Some may object that  young people today don't always abide by moral rules,  however , Pope Francis remarked,  we all  make mistakes in life, and despite this the Lord is always waiting for us because He is merciful”. 

“Who among us has not made a moral mistake in our lives?. Everyone has! Life is like that, but the Lord is always waiting for us because He is merciful.”

While highlighting the need to accompany young people, our future, as they “seek to look forward”, Pope Francis stressed once again the vital importance of “dialogue between old and young” so they don’t lose their roots.

The Church is open to everyone, but there are rules in the Church.

In the conversation the Pope spoke also about his health, his silent prayer for peace in Fatima, sexual abuse, his upcoming visit to Marseille, in France, and his assertion that the Church is open to all with no exception (“Todos, todos, todos”, as he repeated several times during the WYD).

Asked by a reporter if he didn’t think that this assertion was somehow incoherent with the fact that some people, such as women and gay people, do not have the same rights and cannot receive some Sacraments, Pope Francis reiterated that the Catholic Church welcomes everyone and that it has a duty to accompany them on a personal path of spirituality, but within the framework of its rules.

"The Church is open to everyone but there are laws that regulate life inside the Church," he said. According to these laws, certain people they cannot partake in (some) Sacraments. “This does not mean that it is closed. Each person encounters God in their own way inside the Church," the Pope said.

All forms of abuse must be addressed by the Church and society

Pope Francis was also asked about his private meeting with a group of victims of abuse in Lisbon and his opinion on the Portuguese bishops’ policies to to address the scourge of sexual abuse in the Church, following the recent publication by independent commission pointing to nearly 5,000 victims over the past decades in the country. Pope Francis said he knows things are proceeding well  in this respect  and reiterated that all forms of abuse against minors and vulnerable people, whether sexual or not, must be addressed by the Church and society at large.

Exploitation of migrants is criminal

Finally, a French reporter asked Pope Francis about his upcoming visit to the French port city of Marseille in September and his reason for never visiting France as a country. 

Pope Francis explained that the specific purpose of the visit is to join an international conference hosted by the archdiocese (the “Rencontres Méditerranéennes”) gathering bishops and religious leaders of the Mediterranean to discuss, amongst other issues, immigration in the region, an issue which is of particular concern to him.  "The exploitation of migrants is criminal", he said referring in particular to Sub-Saharan African migrants blocked in North Africa.  

He added that at the moment his priority are smaller and more remote countries, rather than big countries like France.

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