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Find true happiness in poverty, Pope urges in World Youth Day message

February 06, 2014

“Have the courage to be truly happy!” Pope Francis challenges young people in his message for the 29th World Youth Day.

In his message the Pope announces that the themes for the next three celebrations of World Youth Day will be drawn from the Beatitudes. His message for this year focuses on the first beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

World Youth Day is celebrated each year on Palm Sunday with a gathering at the Vatican. The next worldwide celebration will be held in Krakow in 2016. The Pope’s message for this year’s celebration was released by the Vatican on February 6.

Pope Francis opens his message by looking back fondly on last year’s WYD celebration in Rio de Janeiro, and looking forward to the events in Krakow. He announces that the theme for next year’s observances will be: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” For 2016 the theme will be: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

“The Beatitudes of Jesus are new and revolutionary,” the Pope observes. “They present a model of happiness contrary to what is usually communicated by the media and by the prevailing wisdom.” In this context the Pontiff writes about the meaning of true happiness. “If you are really open to the deepest aspirations of your hearts, you will realize that you possess an unquenchable thirst for happiness,” he says.

That thirst can only be satisfied by union with God, the Pope continues. He urges young people to work toward that goal. “Say No to an ephemeral, superficial and throwaway culture,” he tells them.

The Pope acknowledges that it seems odd to speak about the blessing of poverty, especially at a time when many people are suffering because of a worldwide financial crisis. But he points to the birth of Jesus in lowly circumstances, saying that this shows “God’s choice to be poor.”

The Greek word used for “poor” in the Gospel means something more than material poverty, the Pope tells young people. The word refers to a beggar, he says, and this conveys “a sense of one’s limitations and existential poverty.” The Christian “beggar” knows that he must rely utterly on God, the Pope says. He cites St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Francis of Assisi as remarkable examples of that attitude.

Pope Francis offers young people three pieces of advice in his message: First of all, try to be free with regard to material things.

Second, if we are to live by this Beatitude, all of us need to experience a conversion in the way we see the poor.

However – and this is my third point – the poor are not just people to whom we can give something. They have much to offer us and to teach us.


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