To the young people gathered at the Shrine of the Korean Martyrs at Solmoe, the Pope responded to a series of questions posed to him by some of those present, including the question of a Korean girl who spoke of the suffering of her nation caused by the separation between North and South and all it entails. Speaking "off-the-cuff" in Italian, Pope Francis said in reality there are not two Koreas, there is one - divided Korea - and just like a family that suffers separation, we must pray for our brothers: "Lord - the Pope said - help us acheive unity. That there may be no victory and no defeat, only one family".
And pointing to a common language shared by North and South as a concrete element of hope, the Pope recalled how Joseph crossed the border into Egypt to buy food and found someone - a brother - who spoke his same language.
During his "off-the-cuff" remarks, Pope Francis also answered a question posed by a young Cambodian girl who asked him how to choose between a religious vocation and the desire to work hard to improve the lives of others. He told her that through prayer the Lord will lead her on the right path - whatever path it will be - he said - as long as it brings benefit to others, it will be the right one.
And responding to her remarks regarding the fact that no Cambodian has ever been beatified, although their have been many holy people in the nation, he promised that upon his return to the Vatican he would look into the question.
The Pope's encounter with the young people gathered for the Sixth Asian Youth Day took place at the Sanctuary of Solmoe, the birthplace of St Andrew Kim Taegon. The first Korean priest, St Andrew came from a family that counted 11 martyrs, including his father and grandfather. St Andrew was himself martyred in 1846, only 13 months after his priestly ordination, when he was just 25 years old.
In the first part of his address, which he delivered in English, Pope Francis quoted Saint Peter on Mount Tabor and said: “It is good for us to be here", And he continued: "Truly it is good for us to be here, together, at this shrine of the Korean Martyrs, in whom the Lord’s glory was revealed at the dawn of the Church’s life in this country.”
The Holy Father reflected on the theme of the Sixth Asian Youth Day: “The Glory of the Martyrs Shines on you.” “Just as the Lord made his glory shine forth in the heroic witness of the martyrs,” he told them, “so too he wants to make his glory shine in your lives, and through you, to light up the life of this vast continent. Today Christ is knocking at the door of your heart.”
Pope Francis called on them to “see the things that really matter” and to go out into the world “knocking on the doors of other people’s hearts,” inviting them to welcome Jesus into their lives.
Asian Youth Day, the Pope said, is also an occasion that allows us to see “something of what the Church herself is meant to be in God’s eternal plan.” The Church, he said, “is meant to be a seed of unity for the whole human family,” in contrast to the spirit of the world, which often seems so far from this ideal. Pope Francis spoke of a world where “the seeds of goodness and hope… seem to be choked by weeds of selfishness, hostility and injustice.”
And yet, he said, “this is the world into which you are called to go forth and bear witness to the Gospel of hope, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the promise of his Kingdom.” The Lord, he said, is counting on young people to spread His message. “Are you ready to say ‘yes’ to him?” Pope Francis asked. “Are you ready?”
Pope Francis concluded his address by looking forward to the concluding Holy Mass for Asian World Day, which will take place in Seoul on Sunday, and left the young people with a final blessing:
“May Mary, our Mother, watch over you and keep you ever close to Jesus her Son. And from his place in heaven, may Saint John Paul II, who initiated the World Youth Days, always be your guide. With great affection I give you my blessing.”
Below please find the complete text of Pope Francis’ prepared remarks to the young people of Asia at the Sanctuary of Solmoe:
Dear Young Friends,
“It is good for us to be here!” (Mt 17:4). These words were spoken by Saint Peter on Mount Tabor as he stood in the presence of Jesus transfigured in glory. Truly it is good for us to be here, together, at this shrine of the Korean Martyrs, in whom the Lord’s glory was revealed at the dawn of the Church’s life in this country. In this great assembly, which brings together young Christians from throughout Asia, we can almost feel the glory of Jesus present in our midst, present in his Church which embraces every nation, language and people, present in the power of his Holy Spirit who makes all things new, young and alive!
I thank you for your warm welcome, and for the gift of your enthusiasm, your joyful songs, your testimonies of faith, and your beautiful expressions of the variety and richness of your different cultures. In a special way, I thank the three young people who shared with me your hopes, your problems and your concerns; I listened to them carefully, and I will keep them in mind. I thank Bishop Lazzaro You Heung-sik for his words of introduction and I greet all of you from my heart.
This afternoon I would like to reflect with you on part of the theme of this Sixth Asian Youth Day: “The Glory of the Martyrs Shines on You”. Just as the Lord made his glory shine forth in the heroic witness of the martyrs, so too he wants to make his glory shine in your lives, and through you, to light up the life of this vast continent. Today Christ is knocking at the door of your heart. He calls you to rise, to be wide awake and alert, and to see the things in life that really matter. What is more, he is asking you to go out on the highways and byways of this world, knocking on the doors of other people’s hearts, inviting them to welcome him into their lives.
This great gathering of Asian young people also allows us to see something of what the Church herself is meant to be in God’s eternal plan. Together with young people everywhere, you want to help build a world where we all live together in peace and friendship, overcoming barriers, healing divisions, rejecting violence and prejudice. And this is exactly what God wants for us. The Church is meant to be a seed of unity for the whole human family. In Christ, all nations and peoples are called to a unity which does not destroy diversity but acknowledges, reconciles and enriches it.
How distant the spirit of the world seems from that magnificent vision and plan! How often the seeds of goodness and hope which we try to sow seem to be choked by weeds of selfishness, hostility and injustice, not only all around us, but also in our own hearts. We are troubled by the growing gap in our societies between rich and poor. We see signs of an idolatry of wealth, power and pleasure which come at a high cost to human lives. Closer to home, so many of our own friends and contemporaries, even in the midst of immense material prosperity, are suffering from spiritual poverty, loneliness and quiet despair. God seems to be removed from the picture. It is almost as though a spiritual desert is beginning to spread throughout our world. It affects the young too, robbing them of hope and even, in all too many cases, of life itself.
Yet this is the world into which you are called to go forth and bear witness to the Gospel of hope, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the promise of his Kingdom. In the parables, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom comes into the world quietly, growing silently yet surely wherever it is welcomed by hearts open to its message of hope and salvation. The Gospel teaches us that the Spirit of Jesus can bring new life to every human heart and can transform every situation, even the most apparently hopeless. This is the message which you are called to share with your contemporaries: at school, in the workplace, in your families, your universities and your communities. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we know that he has “the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68), that his word has the power to touch every heart, to conquer evil with good, and to change and redeem the world.
Dear young friends, in this generation the Lord is counting on you! He entered your hearts on the day of your Baptism; he gave you his Spirit on the day of your Confirmation; and he strengthens you constantly by his presence in the Eucharist, so that you can be his witnesses before the world. Are you ready to say “yes” to him? Are you ready?
Now it is time for me to go. I look forward to seeing you in these days and speaking to you again when we gather for Holy Mass on Sunday. For now, let us thank the Lord for the blessings of this time together and ask him for the strength to be faithful and joyful witnesses of his love throughout Asia and the entire world.
May Mary, our Mother, watch over you and keep you ever close to Jesus her Son. And from his place in heaven, may Saint John Paul II, who initiated the World Youth Days, always be your guide. With great affection I give you my blessing.