by Jack Figge
Special to The Leaven
To much fanfare and pomp, Pope Francis arrived at the opening ceremony of World Youth Day on Aug. 3, reminding the youth of the world that God calls and loves each one of them.
Winding through the crowds in the popemobile, Pope Francis waved and greeted the youth, blessing the crowd before he took the stage.
Alec King from Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park was inspired by the pope’s presence.
“I thought it was inspiring to all of us to go out and live our faith,” said King. “It’s amazing how all these people from diverse countries are coming to one city to celebrate the faith.”
The opening ceremony included a dance performance, and young people read letters to the pope, addressing their concerns, such as environmental sustainability and not feeling welcome at their parish.
“This evening, you have also asked me questions, many questions,” said Pope Francis. “It is right to ask questions —indeed, it is often better than giving answers, for whoever asks remains ‘restless,’ and restlessness is the best remedy for mere routine.”
During his address, Pope Francis talked extensively about how each person is known and loved by God, who has a plan for each of them.
“At this World Youth Day, let us help each other to recognize this fundamental reality: May these days be vibrant echoes of God’s call of love, for we are precious in his eyes, despite what our own eyes, clouded by negativity and dazzled by so many distractions, sometimes see,” he said.
He pleaded with the youth to make the church a home for all people.
“Dear friends, I want to make this clear to you who are allergic to dishonesty and to empty words: There is room for everyone in the church,” he said, “and where there is not, then, please, we must make room.”
The pope’s message resonated with pilgrims like Doug Leikam, the youth minister at Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park.
“Pope Francis talked [about] how Christ has called us all by name individually and how we are to be not afraid,” said Leikam. “It was a great time, and as we continue our pilgrimage, we are incredibly blessed to bring that message and our prayers with us.”
To view the full album of photos from World Youth Day, click here.