Auxiliary Bishop Cristian Contreras Villarroel of Santiago, Chile, says the hundreds of thousands of young people in Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day are not there as tourists but as true pilgrims.
“I am very happy to see young people from all five continents, from all languages, races and nations, overcoming language barriers and sharing one and the same faith, and all of this around Pope Francis,” said Bishop Contreras, who serves as president of the National Youth Ministry Committee in Chile.
Pope Francis arrived in Rio on Monday to throngs of cheering young people – an enthusiastic start to the global youth event which will go until Sunday, July 28. During his time in the country, the pontiff is staying in a modest residency, will visit a slum and will be traveling without his popemobile.
“What we saw yesterday during the arrival,” Bishop Contreras reflected in a July 23 interview with CNA, “demonstrates that anxiety young people have to be close to the Pope, to see him, to touch him, to take a picture close-up.”
“It demonstrates that longing for a father that is present in the hearts of every person, especially in young people who need that authentic authoritative figure that makes them grow.”
“And Pope Francis, like John Paul II and Benedict XVI, shows this,” he added. “Let us recall that in the Gospels, when the people wanted a miracle they sought out Jesus and touched him. It is precisely that. Because Jesus shows us the way to the Father and that’s what Francis does.”
“Anyone who wishes to know the Father must follow Jesus Christ,” he said. “And because of all this I am very happy and these World Youth Days – I have participated in four of them as a bishop catechist – also rejuvenate me.”
It is important to keep in mind, the bishop emphasized, that “we are sentinels at this moment, and the fulfillment of the command of Jesus, which is the theme of this World Youth Day, depends on us: ‘Go and make disciples of all the nations,’ baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
“We are here because many saints, some who are perhaps anonymous, fulfilled that command, which is not a request but is truly a command,” Bishop Contreras noted.
“What these young people are doing is not tourism, they are truly pilgrims and like every pilgrim they deal with hardships, which they overcome through the great welcome they have received.”
Tags: World Youth Day