Vatican City, 13 July 2015 (VIS) – The Pope bade farewell to Paraguay with a meeting with 200 thousand young people at the waterfront promenade of Costanera, where instead of reading the discourse he had prepared for the event, he responded to the testimonies presented by three young people, Orlando, Liz and Manuel. An extensive summary is presented below:
“After reading the Gospel, Orlando came to greet me and said, 'I ask you to pray for the freedom of each one of us, of us all'. It is the blessing that we will now all ask for together: freedom. Because freedom is a gift God gives us, but we must know how to receive it, we must know how to have a free heart, for we all know that in the world there are many bonds that bind our heart and do not let it be free. Exploitation, the lack of means for survival, drug addiction, sadness … all these things take away our freedom. And so, all together, let us thank Orlando who asked for this blessing, that of keeping our heart free, a heart that can say what it thinks and what it feels, that can do what it thinks and feels. This is a free heart!”
He continued, “we have heard two other accounts, from Liz and from Manuel. … Liz could easily have put her mother in a rest home, her grandmother in another rest home, living as a young person, enjoying herself and studying whatever she wanted. And Liz said, 'no'. She has spent her life so far, up to the age of 25, serving her mother and her grandmother. Alone? No. Liz was not alone. She spoke to us about an aunt who was like an angel, and she spoke about her meetings with friends at the weekend, with a young evangelising community, with the youth group that has nurtured her faith. And those two angels – the aunt who helped and the youth group – gave her the strength to keep going. And this is solidarity”.
“First: freedom and a free heart. Second: solidarity, to accompany others. Solidarity. This is what this testimony teaches us. And Manuel has not had an easy life. He has said some tough words to us: 'I was exploited, mistreated, and I risked falling prey to drug abuse … I was alone'. Exploitation, mistreatment, loneliness. And instead of doing negative things, instead of stealing, he set to work. Instead of taking revenge for his hardship, he looked ahead! … Hope, work, fighting for life, forging ahead – this is what Manuel tells us about. As you can see, for many young people life is not easy. And I want you to understand this. … 'While for me life has been relatively easy, there are other young people for whom if has not been relatively easy'. Indeed, there are some whom desperation drives to delinquency, crime, and corruption. To these boys and girls, we must say that we are near to them, that we want to lend them a hand, we want to help them with solidarity, love and hope”.
“There are two beautiful phrases that Liz and Manuel said to us. Listen. Liz told us that as she got to know Jesus, this opened the door to hope. And Manuel said, 'I met God, my strength'. That is, getting to know God, drawing closer to Jesus, means hope and strength. And this is what we need to find in the young today: young people with hope and young people with strength. … Why? Because they know Jesus, they know God. Free heart, solidarity, work, hope, effort. This is the path. But this requires sacrifice and means swimming against the current. The Beatitudes that we have just read are Jesus' plan for us. And it is a project that goes against the grain. Jesus tells us, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit'. He does not say, 'Blessed are the rich, who accumulate wealth'. No. Those who are poor in spirit. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who are able to draw close to and understand those who are poor. Jesus did not say, 'Blessed are those who get by well', but rather, blessed are those who are able to share in the suffering of others. … The other day, a priest said to me, jokingly, 'Go ahead, keep on telling the young to make noise; but then we have to deal with the hubbub they make! Make a noise, but organise it well! A noise that gives us a free heart, that gives us solidarity, that gives us hope, that is born of meeting Jesus and knowing that God, Who knows us, is our strength. This is the noise I want you to make”.
Following his meeting with the young, the Pope travelled to the airport of Asuncion, pausing to bless the Ycua Bolanos supermarket and commercial complex rebuilt after the worst public accident in the country's history, a fire that caused the death of 400 people and injured 500. The papal aeroplane left Paraguayan soil at 7 p.m. local time, and landed in Rome shortly before 2 p.m. (Rome time).