Pope Francis listens to an indigenous drummer as he preforms during a meeting with young people and elders outside the primary school in Iqaluit in the Canadian territory of Nunavut July 29, 2022. Photo by Michael Swan

Pope Francis calls on Indigenous youth to shine brightly

  • July 29, 2022

As Pope Francis concluded his intensive five-day pilgrimage of reconciliation on Canadian soil, he spoke directly to Inuit youth in Iqaluit and offered them three pieces of advice: keep walking upwards, come to the light each day and be part of a team.

Telling the youth they are the “future of this land and the present of its history,” the Pope quoted Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, telling them, “That which you inherited from your fathers, must first be earned before it can become yours.”

“It is not enough to live off the past, it is necessary to earn what was given to you as a gift,” the Pope said. “Do not be afraid, then, to continue listening to the counsels of the elderly, to embrace your past in order to write new pages of history, to be passionate, to take a stand before facts and people, to get involved. To help you make the lamp of your lives shine brightly.”

He went on to offer, as an “elder brother,” his three pieces of advice. First, in walking upwards, he encouraged the youth to always strive ever higher.

“Friends, you were not made ‘to get by,’ to spend your days balancing duties and pleasures, but to soar upwards, towards the most genuine, true and beautiful desires that you cherish in your hearts, to love God and to serve your neighbour. Don’t think that life’s great dreams are as unattainable as the sky above. You were made to fly, to embrace the courage of truth and the beauty of justice,” he said.

It will be hard, no doubt, he said, but look to the arctic swallow which adapts to obstacles in its path always with a clear goal in mind, and always arriving at its destination.

“The world you are living in is the treasure you have inherited: love it, even as God, who gave you life and its great joys, loved you and created all this great beauty for you,” he said.

The youth were encouraged to follow the way of the light by being courageous and resisting the darkness of lies. He recalled the words of St. John Paul II, spoken almost 20 years ago to the day at World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto: “There is perhaps no darkness deeper than the darkness that enters young people’s souls when false prophets extinguish in them the light of faith and hope and love.”

“You too, then, are light for the world and you will shine all the brighter if you struggle to cast out the dark shadows of evil from your heart,” said Pope Francis.

It is freedom that will enable them to say no to evil’s temptations, the Pope said.

“Freedom does not mean doing everything I want and acting as I please. Freedom is not about what I can do in spite of others, but what I can do for others. Freedom is not total caprice, but responsibility. Freedom, along with life, is the greatest gift that our heavenly Father has given us,” he said.

Finally, Pope Francis urged the youngsters to do great things together, as part of a team.

“You young people are like the stars in the sky, which shine so marvellously in this land,” he said “Their beauty comes from the whole, from the constellations they make up, which give light and provide bearings in the nights of this world. You too, called to the heights of Heaven and to shine here on Earth, are made to shine together, in unison.”

He spoke then of Canada’s passion for hockey and the number of triumphs it has had on the world stage, singling out Canada’s women’s national team, the reigning world and Olympic champions.

“How did Sarah Nurse or Marie-Philip Poulin get to score all those goals?” he asked. “Hockey combines discipline and creativity, tactics and physical strength; but team spirit always makes the difference; it is essential for responding to the unpredictability of every game. Teamwork means believing that, in order to achieve great goals, you cannot go it alone; you have to move together, to have the patience to practise and carry out complicated plays.”

All this, the Pope asked of the youth, should be done “within your own culture and in the beautiful Inuktitut language.”   

“It is my hope and prayer that, by listening to your elders and drawing from the richness of your traditions and your personal freedom, you will embrace the Gospel preserved and handed down by your ancestors, and thus come to see the Inuk face of Jesus Christ. I bless you from my heart, and to all of you I say: qujannamiik! (thank you).”

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