Pope Francis smiles while addressing pilgrims at a vigil gathering on Aug. 5, 2023, at World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal. / Credit: Vatican Media
Vatican City, Nov 14, 2023 / 11:51 am (CNA).
Pope Francis has invited young people to be a light of hope in a world suffering from war, violence, suffering, and despair.
“When we think of human tragedies, especially the suffering of the innocent, we too can echo some of the Psalms and ask the Lord, ‘Why?’ At the same time, however, we can also be part of God’s answer to the problem,” the pope said in a message to teens and young adults published Nov. 14.
“Created by him in his image and likeness,” he continued, “we can be signs of his love, which gives rise to joy and hope even in situations that appear hopeless.”
Pope Francis’ message on the theme “Rejoicing in Hope” was released ahead of the next diocesan World Youth Day, to be celebrated on Nov. 26, the solemnity of Christ the King.
The Catholic Church has celebrated World Youth Day annually in local dioceses since the event was established by St. John Paul II in 1985.
The next international World Youth Day is planned for Seoul, South Korea, in 2027. Young adults are also invited to attend a Jubilee of Young People in Rome during the 2025 Jubilee Year.
In his message, Pope Francis said we are living at a time when for many people, the young included, “hope seems absent.”
“Sadly, many of your contemporaries who experience wars, violent conflict, bullying, and other kinds of hardship are gripped by despair, fear, and depression,” he said. “They feel as if they are in a dark prison, where the light of the sun cannot enter.”
He pointed to the high suicide rate among teens and young adults in some countries as a dramatic sign of the level of depression in the world.
“In such situations, how can we experience the joy and hope of which St. Paul speaks?” Francis said. “There is a risk that instead we will fall prey to despair, thinking that it is useless to do good, since it would not be appreciated or acknowledged by anyone. We may say to ourselves, with Job: ‘Where then is my hope? Who will see my hope?’ (Job 17:15).”
Pope Francis recalled that joy “is not a product of our human efforts, plans, or skills, but of the energy born of an encounter with Christ. Christian joy comes from God himself, from our knowledge of his love for us.”
He also pointed to something Pope Benedict XVI said to the Roman Curia in 2011, reflecting on his experience at World Youth Day in Madrid.
Benedict said: “Where does [joy] come from? How is it to be explained? Certainly, there are many factors at work here. But … the crucial one is this certainty based on faith: I am wanted. I have a task in history. I am accepted, I am loved.”
After we have kindled the flame of hope in us, it has to be nourished, Pope Francis said.
“There can be times,” he said, “when it risks being extinguished by the worries, fears and pressures of daily life. A flame needs oxygen to keep burning, in order to grow into a great bonfire of hope.”
The pope gave two pieces of advice for keeping hope alive: to spend time daily in prayer and to make the decision to live in hope.
“When you feel surrounded by the clouds of fear, doubt, and anxiety and you no longer see the sun, take the path of prayer,” he said, recalling Benedict XVI’s words in the encyclical Spe Salvi: “For ‘when no one listens to me any more, God still listens to me.’”
“Let us take some time each day to rest in God, especially when we feel overwhelmed by our problems: ‘For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him (Ps 62:5).’”
“St. Paul’s invitation to rejoice in hope,” the pope said, “calls for concrete choices in our everyday lives. I urge all of you to choose a style of life grounded in hope.”
He pointed to the example of social media, where “it always seems easier to share negative things than things that inspire hope.”
“So my concrete suggestion is this: Each day, try to share a word of hope with others. Try to sow seeds of hope in the lives of your friends and everyone around you,” he said.