August 10, 2023

Verbatim: Message of thanks from Pope Francis to the volunteers of World Youth Day


Message of thanks from Pope Francis to the volunteers of World Youth Day XXXVII during his Apostolic Journey to Portugal.

I am grateful to … all of you for having worked so hard and so well: you have made these unforgettable days possible! You have laboured for months, quietly, without fuss, not seeking the limelight, so that we could all be here to sing together: “Jesus lives and does not leave us alone: we will never stop loving.” Not only that; you have been a good example, because you worked together as a team! Yet your efforts have been more than work, they were a service, thank you!

It was the same service that the Virgin Mary, who “set out and went with haste” (Lk 1:39), offered to her cousin Elizabeth, for she felt the need to share her joy in serving — to share joy and service, joy in serving. Let us think of Zacchaeus, who climbed a tree to see Jesus and then hurried down. Something touched him. He wanted to meet Jesus and welcome Him into his home (cf. Lk 19:6). Let us think of the women and disciples, who on Easter morning ran to the tomb and back to the Upper Room to announce that Christ is risen (cf. Jn 20:1-18). Those who love do not stand idly by, but serve others. Those who love hasten to serve, hasten to dedicate themselves to the service of others. And you ran a great deal in these past months. I was only able to see it in the final moments, in these past few days, while you met a thousand needs, your faces marked at times by fatigue. At other times, you were somewhat overwhelmed by the pressures of the moment, but I observed one thing: your eyes shone brightly because of the joy you had in serving others. Thank you!

You made this World Youth Day possible. You did great things with the smallest of gestures, such as offering a bottle of water to a stranger, which creates friendship. You have done much running about, yet never in a frenetic or aimless way that can sometimes characterize our world. No, you ran in a different way. You ran to meet others in order to serve them in the name of Jesus. You came to Lisbon in order to serve and not to be served.

And now I would like to be a kind of “amplifier” for you, so that what you have told us in your wonderful testimonies may be heard clearly…(M)eeting Christ is the most important encounter, the one that drives every other, that moves life forward…Renewing our personal encounter with Jesus each day is the heart of Christian living. We need to do it each day so that it remains fresh, not only in our mind but also in our heart. We experienced that a simple “yes” to Jesus can change our lives. Yet a “yes” said to others also does much good…. Even when tired, you took courage and moved forward by saying “yes” to serving others.

This gathering helps a great deal to put our lives in order. Why? Is it the gathering itself? No, it is thanks to Jesus, who is in our midst and shows Himself to us. We do not need things, distractions or money to put our lives in order. We need to enlarge our heart. The encounter with Jesus is a personal and unique moment, which can only be described and recounted up to a certain point, but it always comes through a journey made with others, made through the intercession of others. To encounter Jesus and to encounter Him through service to others.

As many of you know, to the north of Lisbon is a place, Nazaré, where it is possible to see waves of up to 30 metres high, which attract surfers from all over the world. You also have faced a real wave: not of water, but of young people like you, who have poured into this city. Yet with God’s help, with great generosity and mutual support, you have ridden this great wave. You are really courageous! Carry on, keep riding the waves of love, of charity. Be “surfers” of love! This is the task that I entrust to you: that the service you offered for World Youth Day be the first of many waves of goodness. Each time, you will be carried higher, closer to God, and this will let you see your path from a better vantage point.

Aug. 6, 2023

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