VATICAN CITY: Starting Holy Week services leading to Easter, Pope Francis urged young people on Sunday to keep shouting and not allow the older generations to silence their voices or anesthetise their idealism.
Francis spoke a day after hundreds of thousands of young Americans and their supporters answered a call to action from survivors of last month’s Florida high school massacre and rallied across the United States to demand tighter gun laws. He did not mention the demonstrations.
Catholic News Service (CNS) said Gabriella Zuniga, 16, and her sister Valentina, 15, both students from Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, where 17 people were killed in February, attended the service with their parents.
CNS posted a photo of the two holding up signs in St. Peter’s Square, with one reading, “Protect Our Children, Not Our Guns.”
The 81-year-old Francis led a long and solemn Palm Sunday service before tens of thousands in the square, many of them young people there for the Catholic Church’s World Day of Youth.
‘You have it in you to shout’
Drawing on biblical parallels, Francis urged the young people in the crowd not to let themselves be manipulated.
“The temptation to silence young people has always existed,” Francis said in the homily of a Mass.
“There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible. Many ways to anaesthetise them, to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing.
“There are many ways to sedate them, to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive,” he said.
“Dear young people, you have it in you to shout,” he told young people.
“It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders, some corrupt, keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?”
The young people in the crowd shouted, “Yes!”
While Francis did not mention Saturday’s marches in the US, he has often condemned weapons manufacturing and mass shootings.
Palm Sunday marked the start of a hectic week of activities for the pope.