Francis’ message to young Asians: You are the Church’s present

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In the 18th and 19th centuries, the ancient Castle of Haemi was used a jail for Christians who were locked up and tortured here, hung to trees by their hair and killed in the most gruesome of manners. Today all that tormented the droves of young people that came from all over Asia to meet Pope Francis, were some clouds and the rain that wouldn’t stop pouring down on the fortress, a key location in Korean martyrology. But the rain did not succeed in dampening the high spirits of the boys and girls as they prepared to meet the Bishop of Rome whom they welcomed with great joy enthusiasm and excitement. The castle was the location for the mass celebration that concluded the sixth Asian Youth Day today. The rain stopped just in time not to spoil the party, shortly before Pope Francis turned up in the Popemobile.

In the homily he addressed to the 30,000 Christians gathered at the castle, Francis suggested ways in which faithful should respond to their call to bear witness to the Gospel across the immense Asian continent: “Each one of you are called to mirror God’s love within your own individual contexts,” the Bishop of Rome said. “The Asian continent, is rich in philosophical and religious traditions and as such it remains a great frontier for your testimony of Christ.” According to Francis, as children of Asia, young Asian Christians “have the right and the duty to fully participate in your societies, spreading knowledge of the faith throughout society.” The Christian faith must not be presented as an imported cultural product that is alien to Asia’s social and human contexts. Asian and Korean girls and boys who encounter Jesus are called to be good Christians and good citizens within the social context they currently live in, just like Christians in any other part of the world. “As Asians too, you see and love, from within, all that is beautiful, noble and true in your cultures and traditions. Yet as Christians, you also know that the Gospel has the power to purify, elevate and perfect this heritage.” In Asia as in any other part of the world, this attitude of openness to authentic human values, the Pope stressed, is also reflected in a Christian’s ability “to discern what is incompatible with your Catholic faith, what is contrary to the life of grace bestowed in Baptism, and what aspects of contemporary culture are sinful, corrupt, and lead to death.”

Francis does not only see young people as part of the Church’s future – as he said in his homily at the mass in Haemi today – they are “a necessary and beloved part of the Church’s present.” He urged them to be attentive to the poor, to strangers and to the needy and the broken-hearted. “It is these people especially who repeat the cry of the woman of the Gospel: “Lord, help me!”. The Canaanite woman’s plea is the cry of everyone who searches for love, acceptance, and friendship with Christ ... “Lord, help me!” ... It is the cry of so many people in our anonymous cities, the cry of so many of your own contemporaries, and the cry of all those martyrs who even today suffer persecution and death for the name of Jesus ... It is often a cry which rises from our own hearts as well.” Francis urged the boys and girls from all over Asia gathered at Haemi Castle to respond to this cry when they hear it: “We are to be like Christ, who responds to every plea for his help with love, mercy and compassion.” This way everyone we meet along our path will experience the mercy of God and recognise that “it is by his mercy that we are saved.”

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By Gianni Valente