August 15, 2016

KRAKÓW, POLAND - Aware of the risk of being accused of spouting platitudes, Pope Francis called on young people to model for adults the paths of mercy and respect, and then demonstrated what he meant.

"Today we adults - we adults - need you to teach us, like you are doing now, how to live with diversity, in dialogue, to experience multiculturalism not as a threat but an opportunity," the pope told young people gathered for a prayer vigil July 30.

"Have the courage to teach us that it is easier to build bridges than walls. We need this," he said.

Many people find it easy to sit on the couch and tweet popular stereotypes like "All Muslims are terrorists" or "Immigrants steal our jobs," he said.

Pope Francis acknowledged that it is a huge task to build bridges and said he knew many people might not feel up to it at first. But Christians have an obligation to make at least an attempt.

Start small, he said. Take the hand of someone next to you.

It is possible that no one will accept that extended hand, he said, "but in life you must take risks; one who never risks never wins."

The reality of evil, violence and terrorism filled the newspapers in late July, strongly contrasting with the sight of young Catholics dancing in the streets of Krakow or a million of them on their knees before the Blessed Sacrament or thousands standing in line for confession in a park.

"We are not here to shout against anyone. We are not about to fight. We do not want to destroy. We do not want to insult anyone," Pope Francis said at the vigil.

"We have no desire to conquer hatred with more hatred, violence with more violence, terror with more terror."

"In the face of evil, suffering and sin," the pope told them, "the only response possible for a disciple of Jesus is the gift of self, even of one's own life, in imitation of Christ; it is the attitude of service.

"Unless those who call themselves Christians live to serve, their lives serve no good purpose. By their lives, they deny Jesus Christ."