Amid the Rain, "Put On Faith" – On "Popeacabana," The Day Begins
That said, the unusual deluge over Rio has spurred a major change to the agenda – earlier today, organizers announced that "Campus Fidei," as the planned site for Saturday's vigil and Sunday's closing Mass on the city's outskirts had been dubbed, was rendered unusable by the rain, requiring the events' transfer to what some have taken to calling "Popeacabana." In the same vein, the WYD tradition of pilgrims spending the night at the vigil/Mass venue has been scrapped.
As the now-ditched mega-field was several times the size of the Cuatro Vientos airbase that saw 1.5 million congregate for B16's final liturgy at World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid – whose own Saturday vigil was plagued by a memorable thunder and wind-storm – the switch to a city-center locale (albeit a less sprawling one) for the climactic rites could well end up as a further boost to the Sunday crowd, the higher estimates of which have already been running in the range of 3 million.
For purposes of context, the largest WYD throng of all was the 5 million who converged for John Paul II's closing liturgy in Manila in 1995. It was the largest mass ever drawn by the Polish Pope – one of the greatest crowd-magnets in human history – in life, though a similar turnout came for his funeral in April 2005.
Even if the site has been changed, one major thing will stay the same – at the close of Sunday's Mass, in keeping with tradition, Francis will announce the host city of the next WYD... and indications are that – the canonization of the event's founder now officially in the bag – the choice will go to the soon-to-be Saint John Paul II's hometown of Krakow, with the event most likely to take place in 2016.
...and – in two parts – Francis' initial greeting to the pilgrims:
Dear Young Friends,...and, amid the wind and rain, the Pope's homily at the welcome:
Good evening! In you I see the beauty of Christ’s young face and I am filled with joy. I recall the first World Youth Day on an international level. It was celebrated in 1987 in Argentina, in my home city of Buenos Aires. I still cherish the words of Blessed John Paul II to the young people on that occasion: “I have great hope in you! I hope above all that you will renew your fidelity to Jesus Christ and to his redeeming Cross” (Address to Young People, Buenos Aires, 11 April 1987).
Before I continue, I would like to call to mind the tragic accident in French Guiana in which young Sophie Morinière was killed and other young people were wounded. I invite all of you to observe a minute’s silence and to pray for Sophie, for the wounded, and for their families.
This year, World Youth Day comes to Latin America for the second time. And you, young people, have responded in great number to the invitation extended by Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate this occasion. We express to him our heartfelt thanks. I am looking at the large crowd before me – there are so many of you! And you have come from every continent! In many cases you have come from afar, not only geographically, but also existentially, culturally, socially and humanly. But today you are all here, or better yet, we are all here together as one, in order to share the faith and the joy of an encounter with Christ, of being his disciples. This week Rio has become the centre of the Church, its heart both youthful and vibrant, because you have responded generously and courageously to the invitation that Christ has made to you to be with him and to become his friends.
The train of this World Youth Day has come from afar and has travelled across all of Brazil following the stages of the project entitled “Bota fé – put on faith!” Today the train has arrived at Rio de Janeiro. From Corcovado, Christ the Redeemer embraces us and blesses us. Looking out to this sea, the beach and all of you gathered here, I am reminded of the moment when Jesus called the first disciples to follow him by the shores of Lake Tiberias. Today Christ asks each of us again: Do you want to be my disciple? Do you want to be my friend? Do you want to be a witness to my Gospel? In the spirit of The Year of Faith, these questions invite us to renew our commitment as Christians. Your families and local communities have passed on to you the great gift of faith, Christ has grown in you. I have come today to confirm you in this faith, faith in the living Christ who dwells within you, but I have also come to be confirmed by the enthusiasm of your faith!
I greet you with great affection. To all of you assembled here from the five continents and, through you, to all young people of the world, and in particular to those who have not been able to come to Rio de Janeiro but who are following us by means of radio, television and internet, I say: Welcome to this immense feast of faith! In several parts of the world, at this very moment, many young people have come together to share this event: let us all experience the joy of being united with each other in friendship and faith. And be sure of this: my pastoral heart embraces all of you with universal affection. From the summit of the mountain of Corcovado, Christ the Redeemer welcomes you to this beautiful city of Rio!
I wish to extend greetings to the President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the dear and tireless Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko, and to all who work with him. I thank Archbishop Orani João Tempesta, of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, for the warm welcome given to me and for the considerable work of preparation for this World Youth Day, together with the many Dioceses of this vast country of Brazil. I would also like to express my gratitude to all the national, state and local authorities and to those who have worked to make possible this unique moment of celebration of unity, faith and fraternity. Thank you to my brother Bishops, to the priests, seminarians, consecrated persons and the lay faithful that have accompanied the young from various parts of the world on their pilgrimage to Jesus. To each and every one of you I offer my affectionate embrace in the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, dear friends, welcome to the XXVIII World Youth Day in this marvellous city of Rio de Janeiro!
“It is good for us to be here!”, Peter cries out after seeing the Lord Jesus transfigured in glory. Do we want to repeat these words with him? I think the answer is yes, because here today, it is good for all of us to be gathered together around Jesus! It is he who welcomes us and who is present in our midst here in Rio. In the Gospel we have heard God the Father say: “This is my Son, my chosen one; listen to him!” (Lk 9:35). If it is Jesus who welcomes us, we too ought to welcome him and listen to his words; it is precisely through the welcome we give to Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, that the Holy Spirit transforms us, lights up our way to the future, and enables us joyfully to advance along that way with wings of hope (cf. Lumen Fidei, 7).
But what can we do? “Bota fé – put on faith”. The World Youth Day Cross has proclaimed these words throughout its pilgrimage in Brazil. “Put on faith”: what does this mean? When we prepare a plate of food and we see that it needs salt, well, we “put on” salt; when it needs oil, then you “put on” oil. “To put on”, that is, to place on top of, to pour over. And so it is in our life, dear young friends: if we want it to have real meaning and fulfilment, as you want and as you deserve, I say to each one of you, “Put on faith”, and your life will take on a new flavour, it will have a compass to show you the way; “put on hope” and every one of your days will be enlightened and your horizon will no longer be dark, but luminous; “put on love”, and your life will be like a house built on rock, your journey will be joyful, because you will find many friends to journey with you. Put on faith, put on hope, put on love!
But who can give us all this? In the Gospel we have just heard the answer: Christ. “This is my Son, my chosen one. Listen to him!” Jesus is the one who brings God to us and us to God. With him, our life is transformed and renewed, and we can see reality with new eyes, from Jesus’ standpoint, with his own eyes (cf. Lumen Fidei, 18). For this reason, I want to insist with you today: “Put on Christ!” in your life, and you will find a friend in whom you can always trust; “put on Christ” and you will see the wings of hope spreading and letting you journey with joy towards the future; “put on Christ” and your life will be full of his love; it will be a fruitful life.
Today, I would like each of us to ask sincerely: in whom do we place our trust? In ourselves, in material things, or in Jesus? We are all tempted to put ourselves at the centre, to think that we alone build our lives or that our life can only be happy if built on possessions, money, or power. But it is not so. Certainly, possessions, money and power can give a momentary thrill, the illusion of being happy, but they end up possessing us and making us always want to have more, never satisfied. “Put on Christ” in your life, place your trust in him and you will never be disappointed! You see how faith accomplishes a revolution in us, one which we can call Copernican, because it removes us from the centre and restores it to God; faith immerses us in his love and gives us security, strength, and hope. To all appearances, nothing has changed; yet, in the depths of our being, everything is different. Peace, consolation, gentleness, courage, serenity and joy, which are all fruits of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22), find a home in our heart, and our very being is transformed; our way of thinking and acting is made new, it becomes Jesus’ own, God’s own, way of thinking and acting. During the Year of Faith, this World Youth Day is truly a gift offered to us to draw us closer to the Lord, to be his disciples and his missionaries, to let him renew our lives.
Dear young people: “Put on Christ” in your lives. In these days, Christ awaits you in his word; listen carefully to him and your heart will be warmed by his presence; “Put on Christ”: he awaits you in the sacrament of Penance, to heal by his mercy the wounds caused by sin. Do not be afraid to ask God’s forgiveness! He never tires of forgiving us, like a father who loves us. God is pure mercy! “Put on Christ”: he is waiting for you in his flesh in the Eucharist, the sacrament of his presence and his sacrifice of love, and in the humanity of the many young people who will enrich you with their friendship, encourage you by their witness to the faith, and teach you the language of charity, goodness and service.
You too, dear young people, can be joyful witnesses of his love, courageous witnesses of his Gospel, carrying to this world a ray of his light.
“It is good for us to be here”, putting on Christ in our lives, putting on the faith, hope and love which he gives us. Dear friends, in this celebration we have welcomed the image of Our Lady of Aparecida. With Mary, may we be disciples and missionaries. Like her, may we say “Yes” to God. Let us ask that her maternal heart intercede for us, so that our hearts may be open to loving Jesus and making others love him. He is waiting for us, and he is counting on us. Amen.