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Pope warns youth against materialism

Paterno Esmaquel II
In his first World Youth Day speech, Pope Francis warns the youth against 'the illusion of being happy'

'PUT ON CHRIST.' In his first World Youth Day speech, Pope Francis warns the youth against the 'illusion of being happy.' Photo by EPA/Luca Zennaro

MANILA, Philippines – In his first official World Youth Day (WYD) speech, Pope Francis on Friday morning, July 26 (Thursday evening, July 25, in Brazil), warned the youth against materialism that brings “the illusion of being happy.”

Francis, who addressed around 1.5 million WYD delegates, urged the youth to “put on Christ” instead.

“We are all tempted to put ourselves at the center, 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,” the Pope said during the prayer service on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

He said: “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!”

He added faith accomplishes a “Copernican” revolution “because it removes us from the center and restores us to God.”

“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,” Francis said. 

The Pope delivered a similar message during his first public Mass in Latin America on Wednesday, July 24. He then warned against “the many idols which take the place of God and appear to offer hope: money, success, power, pleasure.”

“Often a growing sense of loneliness and emptiness in the hearts of many people leads them to seek satisfaction in these ephemeral idols. Dear brothers and sisters, let us be lights of hope! Let us maintain a positive outlook on reality. Let us encourage the generosity which is typical of the young and help them to work actively in building a better world,” Francis said.

He added: “Young people are a powerful engine for the Church and for society. They do not need material things alone; also and above all, they need to have held up to them those non-material values which are the spiritual heart of a people, the memory of a people.”

Tailor-fit for Francis

While it was mostly prepared under Benedict XVI, WYD Brazil appears tailor-fit for Francis, the first Latin American pontiff who has called for a missionary Catholic Church.

FRANCIS' HOMECOMING. Pope Francis waves at his arrival to meet with thousands of pilgrims on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by EPA/Aline Massuca

WYD Brazil, his first international trip, is a homecoming for Francis.

It is only the second time that WYD is held in Latin America. The first time was in 1987, when WYD was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Francis as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio served as archbishop. It was also the first time WYD was held outside Rome. 

WYD Brazil also resounds with a theme of Francis’ papacy. The theme of this year’s youth gathering is, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” which comes from the Gospel according to Matthew.

Incidentally, Pope Francis has consistently blasted a “self-referential Church” that doesn’t “come out of herself.”

He has said this since the cardinals’ closed-door meetings for the election of the new pontiff.

“The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also to existential peripheries: the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and indifference to religion, of intellectual currents, and of all misery,” Bergoglio said during the pre-conclave meetings.

Francis echoed this message in his arrival speech in Rio de Janeiro last Tuesday, July 23. He said the reason for his visit to Brazil “goes beyond its borders.”

“I have actually come for World Youth Day,” the Pope said. “I am here to meet young people coming from all over the world, drawn to the open arms of Christ the Redeemer. They want to find a refuge in his embrace, close to his heart, to listen again to his clear and powerful appeal: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations.’” – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.