Pope Francis isn’t just resorting to words to reinforce his commitment to young people at World Youth Day celebrations happening this week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
During a mass on Wednesday in Aparecida, about three hours west from Rio and most WYD events, Francis encouraged young people to shun “ephemeral idols,” Reuters reported.
“It is true that nowadays, to some extent, everyone, including our young people, feels attracted by the many idols which take the place of God and appear to offer hope: money, success, power, pleasure,” Francis said.
“Often a growing sense of loneliness and emptiness in the hearts of many people leads them to seek satisfaction in these ephemeral idols.”
His mass came with great personal meaning, also.
The pope visited a shrine in the city to the Virgin of Aparecida, or the so-called “black Mary” or “Brazilian Mary.” Catholics believe that fisherman found the shrine underwater 300 years ago, bringing with it a bounty during lean times.
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Francis also returned to a city where he first established himself as a world leader among his peers.
He was in Aparecida during a 2007 conference, back when he was still known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
That was evident in his emotional, and sometimes jovial, appearance in the city, the Los Angeles Times said. Francis happily greeted clergy during his short stay and appeared touched when presented with an Our Lady of Aparecida replica.
He later encouraged his youngest followers to engage themselves in Christ for a better world.
“Let us encourage the generosity which is typical of the young and help them to work actively in building a better world,” he said, the LA Times reported. “Young people are a powerful engine for the church and for society.”
This was Francis’s first mass outside Italy since becoming the first pope from the Americas, and the people of Brazil and an estimated 1 million pilgrims have surrounded him at every turn.
He’s enjoying every minute, and had opted to travel in open-air vehicle instead of the insulated, armored Popemobiles of his predecessors.
When his car was surrounded by followers shortly after his arrival on Monday, he conceded to security concerns and was to take safer transportation when he returned to Rio later on Wednesday for a trip to St. Francis of Assisi hospital.
A safer ride hasn’t stopped him, however, from making further statements.
He’s dumped luxury limousines for compact cars, and on Wednesday diverted his driver to the side of a road where he could greet worshipers and kiss several babies presented to him as he drove to Aparecida airport.
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