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Pope meets teens, young adults, talks about search for meaning

Pope Francis visits some 80 boys and girls of a Rome parish who are preparing to celebrate the Jubilee Year
Pope Francis meets young Catholics at Rome's Parish of Saint Bernadette di Soubirous.

Pope Francis meets young Catholics at Rome's Parish of Saint Bernadette di Soubirous. (Photo: Vatican Media)

Published: May 25, 2024 05:33 AM GMT
Updated: May 25, 2024 05:38 AM GMT

Dropping in on a parish meeting of teens and young adults, Pope Francis responded to their questions about prayer and encouraged them to build relationships of support as they searched for meaning in their lives.

The pope's late afternoon visit on May 24 to the Rome parish of St. Bernadette Soubirous was not announced in advance by the Vatican, although word had spread through the neighborhood and hundreds of people were gathered outside to greet Pope Francis.

The visit was the second appointment of his "School of Prayer," a series of visits he intends to make during this Year of Prayer in preparation for the Holy Year 2025. The visits are coordinated by the section of the Dicastery for Evangelization that is organizing the Holy Year.

Inside a church hall, about 80 teenagers, young adults and Scouts gathered with the pope. He began by telling them he had a prepared speech, but it was "boring" so he would just listen to them and answer their questions, according to a Vatican News reporter.

A young man "confessed that he did not believe in God," the Dicastery for Evangelization said in a summary of the meeting. In response, "the pope recalled the importance of setting out on a journey. 'No one should be condemned if they do not believe,'" the pope said.

However, the pope told him, it is important to set out and search for meaning. "If I see a young person who doesn't move, who sits there in life, who doesn't like to move, it is bad," but if someone is brave enough to step out, even if the person falls, "I take my hat off to him. Move for an ideal."

Responding to a question from a young married couple, Pope Francis spoke about his worry over Italy's declining birthrate and, pointing to a toddler named Benedetta who was running around the room, the pope said, "this is hope -- children."

"It's true that when you think about the future, there is a risk," the pope said, according to Vatican News, "but there is more of a risk in not having children. It's a social risk."

A young man named Tiziano asked the pope how he should go about understanding what his vocation is.

"Each one of us must ask this question," Pope Francis replied, "because the Lord has a plan for each of us. Each one must try to understand what the Lord wants from us, ask him."

The dicastery said the pope recounted his own experience of working for a while before entering the seminary. The best way, the pope told Tiziano, is to "ask the Lord in prayer: 'What do you want from me?'"

The pope also spoke about the importance of young people cultivating friendships and relationships with people they can trust.

"Sometimes we can get lost in the labyrinths of life," the pope told them. "The main way to get out of a dark moment is to not walk alone because alone we lose our bearings. It is important to talk about one's situation."

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Teens and young adults - they are the present and future of Planet Earth our common home.
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