(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday met with tens of thousands of young Mexicans from across the country, telling them that they are the wealth of the nation.
After evidently enjoying the singing and dancing performed by hundreds of youngsters in colourful local costumes, the Pope told them to put their hope, not in money or material things, but in Jesus Christ who is calling them to be ‘salt and light’ among their friends and their communities.
Pope Francis also told the young people he understands the difficulties they face when they lose friends or relatives to drugs or criminal organizations, when they have no job opportunities or feel their rights are being trampled on. But he told them never to lose hope, to draw close to Jesus and to go out and proclaim their faith to others.
Please find below Pope Francis’ prepared remarks to young people in the José María Morellos y Pavón Stadium, Morelia, Mexico
Dear young friends,
Good afternoon. When I arrived in this country I received a warm welcome. I saw something which I have sensed for a long time: the vitality, the joy, and the festive spirit of the Mexican people. And now [ahorita]… after listening to you, but particularly after seeing you, I am also certain about something else, something I said to the President of the nation when I arrived. One of Mexico’s greatest treasures is that it has a youthful face: its young people. Yes, you are the wealth of this land. I did not say the hope of this land, but its wealth.
You cannot live in hope, or look to the future if you do not first know how to value yourselves, if you do not feel that your life, your hands, your history, is worth the effort. Hope is born when you are able to experience that all is not lost; and for this to happen it is necessary to start “at home”, to begin with yourself. Not everything is lost. I am not lost; I am worth something, I am worth a lot. The biggest threats to hope are those words which devalue you, which make you feel second rate. The biggest threat to hope is when you feel that you do not matter to anybody or that that you have been left aside. The biggest threat to hope is when you feel that, either being present or absent, you make no difference. This kills, this crushes us and opens the door to much suffering. The principal threat to hope is to allow yourself to believe that you begin to be valuable when you start wearing the right clothes, the latest brands and fashions, or when you enjoy prestige, are important because you have money; but in the depths of your heart you do not believe that you are worthy of kindness or love. The biggest threat is when a person feels that they must have money to buy everything, including the love of others. The biggest threat is to believe that by having a big car you will be happy.
You are the wealth of Mexico, you are the wealth of the Church. I understand that often it is difficult to feel your value when you are continually exposed to the loss of friends or relatives at the hands of the drug trade, of drugs themselves, of criminal organizations that sow terror. It is hard to feel the wealth of a nation when there are no opportunities for dignified work, no possibilities for study or advancement, when you feel your rights are being trampled on, which then leads you to extreme situations. It is difficult to appreciate the value of a place when, because of your youth, you are used for selfish purposes, seduced by promises that end up being untrue.
Nonetheless, despite all this, I will never tire of saying, You are the wealth of Mexico.
Don’t think I am saying this because I am good, or I because I have concise ideas about it; no dear friends, it is not like that. I say this to you and I am convinced of it. And do you know why? Because, like you, I believe in Jesus Christ. And it is he who continually renews in me this hope, it is he who continually renews my outlook. It is he who continually invites me to a conversion of heart. Yes, my friends, I say this because in Jesus I have found the One who is able to bring out the best in me. Hand in hand with him, we can move forward, hand in hand with him we can begin again and again, hand in hand with him we find the strength to say: it is a lie to believe that the only way to live, or to be young, is to entrust oneself to drug dealers or others who do nothing but sow destruction and death. Hand in hand with Jesus Christ we can say: it is a lie that the only way to live as young people here is in poverty and exclusion; in the exclusion of opportunities, in the exclusion of spaces, in the exclusion of training and education, in the exclusion of hope. It is Jesus Christ who refutes all attempts to render you useless or to be mere mercenaries of other people’s ambitions.
You have asked me for a word of hope, and the one word I have to give you, is Jesus Christ. When everything seems too much, when it seems that the world is crashing down around you, embrace his Cross, draw close to him and please, never let go of his hand; please, never leave him. Hand in hand with him it is possible to live fully, by holding his hand it is possible to believe that it is worth the effort to give your best, to be leaven, salt and light among your friends, neighbourhoods, and your community. For this reason, dear friends, holding the hand of Jesus I ask you to not let yourselves be excluded, do not allow yourselves to be devalued, do not let them treat you like a commodity. Of course, you may not be able to have the latest car model at the door, you will not have pockets filled with money, but you will have something that no one can take away from you, which is the experience of being loved, embraced and accompanied. It is the experience of being family, of feeling oneself as part of a community.
Today the Lord continues to call you, he continues to draw you to him, just as he did with the Indian, Juan Diego. He invites you to build a shrine. A shrine that is not a physical place but rather a community, a shrine called “Parish”, a shrine called, “Nation”. Being a community, a family, and knowing that we are citizens is one of the best antidotes to all that threatens us, because it makes us feel that we are a part of the great family of God. This is not an invitation to flee and enclose ourselves, but, on the contrary, to go out and to invite others, to go out and proclaim to others that being young in Mexico is the greatest wealth, and consequently, it cannot be sacrificed.
Jesus would never ask us to be assassins; rather, he calls us to be disciples. He would never send us out to death, but rather everything in him speaks of life. A life in a family, life in a community; families and communities for the good of society.
You are the wealth of this country, and when you doubt this, look to Jesus, he who destroys all efforts to make you useless or mere instruments of other people’s ambitions.