During World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro next week, Pope Francis will be presented with and bless a wooden cross signed by more than 10,000 youth from across 26 provinces of Colombia.
The Bishop of Rome agreed to receive the cross after he was sent an eight-page letter from Maria Isabel Magana, the Colombian coordinator of the Lewe Youth Movement. The youth movement takes its name, “Lewe,” from the Afrikaans word meaning “life.”
The letter included photos of young people with the cross and explained why they want to bring it to Brazil.
Archbishop Octavio Ruiz Arenas, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization and a Bogotá native, delivered the letter to the Holy Father.
In her letter, Magana wrote that “after hearing your homily to young people on Sunday, April 28, inviting them to ‘go against the tide, as that does the heart good,’ we decided we should write you this letter.”
The movement hopes the cross will demonstrate “the love and commitment of Colombian young people for the Church and the world.”
Magana said the Lewe Youth were inspired by the first Colombian saint, Mother Laura Montoya, who promoted the Carmelite tradition of putting a cross, rather than a crucifix, over her bead so that in contemplating it “we might be the Christ who ascends the Cross in order to give ourselves completely for others.”
The young people decided that each signature would be a sign of the challenge to be another Christ on the cross.
“Young people are crazy about following the steps of Jesus and being faithful to his Church,” she explained.
The cross which will be gifted to Pope Francis is divided into pieces, and will be taken to Brazil by twelve youth of the Lewe movement. They plan to erect the cross at each of the main events of World Youth Day so that pilgrims from across the world will be able to sign it as well.
“Tears come to my eyes when I see the excitement with which the cross is received and how young people sign it with such tenderness,” Magana related to Pope Francis in her letter.