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Pope Francis gave a speech to government and political leaders, diplomats and representatives of civil society at the Belém Cultural Center in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 2.
Pope Francis gave a speech to government and political leaders, diplomats and representatives of civil society at the Belém Cultural Center in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 2.
Photo Credit: Lola Gomez | Catholic News Service

POPE’S MESSAGE | In Portugal for WYD, pope urges Europe to recover its ‘youthful heart’

In a world that sees so much protest and unrest, World Youth Day represents a chance to build together, he said

LISBON, Portugal — Arriving at the edge of the European continent for World Youth Day, Pope Francis urged Portuguese officials to return to their maritime roots by setting sail toward new horizons of hope and helping build a Europe “capable of recovering its youthful heart.”

“It is my hope that World Youth Day may be, for the ‘Old Continent,’ we can say the elderly continent” — he ad-libbed with a smile — “an impulse toward universal openness.”

At a meeting at the Belém Cultural Center in Lisbon shortly after his arrival in the Portuguese capital Aug. 2, the pope addressed Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, other government and political leaders, diplomats and representatives of civil society.

In the face of injustice, wars and the climate and migration crises, he said, the world “needs Europe’s role as a bridge and peacemaker.”

On the three-hour flight to Portugal, the 86-year-old pope told journalists that his trip to World Youth Day will “make me young again,” and that young people “will continue to shake things up” in society and the Church, a callback to his 2013 speech to young people during his first trip as pope to World Youth Day in Río de Janeiro.

Two Portuguese children gave the pope flowers under overcast and drizzling skies upon his arrival at the Figo Maduro Air Base in Lisbon where he was welcomed on the tarmac by the Portuguese president.

People cheered as the pope passed them in a small white Toyota, and they waved flags — mainly Portuguese, Brazilian and Vatican flags — along the 4-mile route leading to the National Palace of Belém, the official residence of the president of Portugal. There, the pope had a half-hour meeting with the president.

Addressing Portuguese officials and representatives of civil society at the Belém Cultural Center, the pope posed a question to Europe: “Where are you sailing, if you are not showing the world paths of peace, creative ways for bringing an end to the war in Ukraine and to the many other conflicts causing so much bloodshed?”

He repeated his question to the West in general: “On what course are you sailing?” he asked, noting its “highly sophisticated weapons, which do not represent investments for the future but a depletion of its authentic human capital: that of education, health, the welfare state.”

Speaking off-the-cuff, the pope said an economist recently told him that the “best” investment one can make is in arms manufacturing. “There is more investment in arms than in the future of children,” he said.

“Where are you sailing, Europe and the West, with the discarding of the elderly, walls of barbed wire, massive numbers of deaths at sea and empty cradles?” he asked, returning to his prepared text. He also criticized the “hasty but mistaken remedies” to life’s problems offered by Western societies, “like easy access to death, a convenient answer that seems sweet but is in fact more bitter than the waters of the sea.”

The pope lamented the developed world’s “creeping utilitarianism” which abandons the unborn and elderly, recalling “the great challenge of welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating those who come from afar and knock on our doors, and the isolation felt by so many families that find it hard to bring children into the world and raise them.”

“Lisbon,” however, “gives us a reason to hope,” the pope said.

“At a time when we are witnessing on many sides a climate of protest and unrest, a fertile terrain for forms of populism and conspiracy theories, World Youth Day represents a chance to build together,” he said.

Pope Francis identified three areas where he urged people to work together: caring for the environment, creating a promising future for young people and promoting fraternity.

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