Pope Francis to young Russians: Be crafters of peace amid conflict
By Antonella Palermo
On Friday, August 25, Pope Francis interacted remotely for a little more than an hour with about 400 boys and girls participating in the 10th National Meeting of Catholic Youth of Russia in St. Petersburg.
United under the mantle of the Universal Church
Some participants in the event, held since 2000 and organized this year for the first time in St. Petersburg, had to travel as far as 9,000 kilometers from 54 cities of the Federation to get there.
In the introductory greetings, Archbishop of the Mother of God in Moscow Paolo Pezzi remarked how communication with the Pope provides a special joy and experience of unity with the universal Church.
Replace fears with dreams
The Pope traced back to the Lisbon WYD's motto, "Mary got up and went in haste" (Lk. 1:39).
"Have the courage to replace fears with dreams," The Holy Father added. "Do not be stewards of fears, but entrepreneurs of dreams! Allow yourselves the luxury of dreaming big!"
Recalling the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth, how they became "witnesses of God's transforming power," Pope Francis recognized that the Lord calls by name "before our darkness and wounds."
The Holy Father remembered Mary's haste in infusing her joy, and, like her, we cannot stand still when God calls. We must get up in a hurry because the world, the brother, the suffering, the one who stands by and does not know God's hope, needs to receive God's joy.
God's love is for all
The Pope emphasized the role of the Church as "a mother with an open heart who knows how to welcome and receive, especially those who need more care."
He invited to remember the Gospel episode of the invitation of the master of the banquet at the crossroads, to imitate him in bringing the Word of God to everyone. "That's what Jesus meant: everyone, everyone, everyone."
Pope Francis revealed his dream of a Church where no one is in excess, and not a customs selecting who comes in and who doesn't.
Entry is free, the Pope said. Then, everyone hears the invitation of Jesus to follow him, to see how he stands before God, walking that path with the help of the teachings and Sacraments.
Young and old open up to each other
Throughout his address, the Holy Father touched on the idea close to his heart about the dialogue between young and old.
Returning to the encounter between Mary and Elizabeth, he invited young Russians to be "bridge builders between generations, recognizing the dreams" of their predecessors.
He insisted on the importance of being "a sign of hope, a sign peace, and joy, like Mary." By imitating her humility, "may you change the history in which you live."
Only Christ delivers from darkness
Before his speech, the Holy Father listened to the testimony of Alexander Baranov, a 34-year-old man who participated in occult rituals until a decade ago, when he entered seminary.
What matters most, he explained, is bringing people out of the dark; otherwise, the rest of the effort in making the Church more "attractive" is in vain.
Alexander observed that it may be fear, the pain of loss, the experience of one's weakness, experienced violence and trauma among the causes of such a drift.
We should talk, he pointed out, about how Christ shows that despite our weakness and the negative, we are worthy of life, salvation, and love. "This liberating experience is more important than all our plans about bringing people to Christ."
"Because all this," he concluded, "is capable neither of attracting nor saving. It is Christ who really heals and really leads from darkness to light, from death to life, from Satan to Himself and to the Father."
Faith and the Church help in daily sacrifices
The Holy Father also listened to the story of Varvara Molotilova, the second-born of eight children.
Her parents married thanks to the community born in the Urals where Fr Yaroslav, the dean of the Ekaterinburg parish, served.
She told the Pope about how Catholic faith was lived and passed on in her family. A free choice sustained by her parents' love, who, as a believing Christian couple, teach humility, patience, and dignity in facing daily sacrifices.
Russian Youth Day
The ongoing national meeting in St. Petersburg continues until August 27. It includes catechesis each morning in groups of 25-30 people in different places in the city, modeled after the themes of Lisbon: integral ecology, social friendship, God's mercy.
The young Russians are accompanied by priests, religious men and women in charge of youth ministry, and the five bishops: Paul Pezzi, Metropolitan of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow, and Auxiliary Nikolai Dubinin; Clemens Pickel, of the Diocese of St. Clement in Saratov; Joseph Werth, of the Diocese of the Transfiguration in Novosibirsk; and Kirill Klimovich, of the Diocese of St. Joseph in Irkutsk.
There are also international students living in Russia from Armenia, Azerbaijan, India, Colombia and other countries.
On Thursday, August 24, a vocation day was held where representatives from different monastic and youth communities spoke about their ministry.