In the latest “Popecast” by Vatican News’ Salvatore Cernuzio, Pope Francis listens to recorded questions of a group of young people who share their personal stories. To each he responds with words of encouragement. The questions and his answers are featured in an Italian-language podcast produced by Vatican Radio – Vatican News. The Pope’s first podcast took place back in March for the tenth anniversary of his pontificate.
The young people featured in this second podcast represent a variety of backgrounds and age-groups, sharing their difficulties, but also their dynamism and hopes.
Pope Francis listened to the story of Giona, who spoke about the challenges of being a believer, while accepting the reality of having physical challenges and being transgender.
The Pope offered words of encouragement, saying “God loves us just as we are,” and that “the Lord always accompanies us, always. Even if we are sinners, He draws near to help us.” The Pope added, “do not give up, keep striving ahead.”
Listening to the stories of Edward and Valerij, both serving time in a juvenile correctional community, the Pope heard about their difficult family situations and abandonment that led to their committing crimes they regret.
In response, the Pope asked them to consider that our mistakes must not be allowed to block our lives and that the “human story goes on with its successes and its failures.”
Even one mistake can cause our lives to be permanently marked by society, the Pope lamented, but he asked them to always remember the Lord is with them on their journey, ready “to take you by the hand, to help lift you up”. Our task, he said, is to acknowledge our mistakes so that God can help us reflect on our lives and move forward positively.
Arianna recounted her own struggle with bipolar disorder, which has caused her moments of great joy, but also moments when she has contemplated suicide. At the same time, she said she feels that she is “saved by God.”
The Pope listened to her closely and responded by encouraging her to “always look ahead, not to lose sight of the horizon…and the horizon is God.”
He invited her to follow the care recommenations of health professionals, and noted that we are all wounded in life in various ways and due to different causes, including sin, which require us to always look to the horizon of God’s love and mercy.
Pope Francis then addressed several Argentinian youth about their hopes for their country and improving life there, and he called on them to rise to the occasion and help make society better there, a country that is rich in resources.
He then listened to Valeria, a religion teacher, who relayed feedback she receives from her young students who wish for a Church that is more transparent, youthful and close to people in their lives.
The Pope responded recalling the importance of a Church walking together with the people. He warned that when the Church becomes too closed in on itself, it risks becoming sectarian and divided. He added that the greatness of the Church lies in our diversity and unity.
The Pope then heard from Giuseppe who spoke about his leaving university studies, but spending a large part of his time at home playing videogames with online contacts.
The Pope observed that his life lived primarily online can become “aseptic” and isolated, as he misses the horizon, since human contact with others is so important.
In conclusion, after asking who would be going to World Youth Day, Pope Francis urged his young interlocutors in the “Popecast” to make the effort to take part in all the WYD events, calling it a worthwhile experience they will find very fulfilling, marked by community, celebration, hope and joy.