World Youth Day participants hope to build peaceful future

Pilgrims arrive at the Rio de Janeiro airport for World Youth Day 2013 Credit CNA  Michelle Bauman Pilgrims arrive at the Rio de Janeiro airport for World Youth Day 2013. | CNA/Michelle Bauman.

Journalists from across the world heard stories of faith and determination from young people attending World Youth Day 2013 in the hopes of working for a more just and peaceful society.

Archbishop Orani João Tempesta of Rio de Janeiro explained that Pope Francis arrives in Brazil today bearing the hope of "all those who want to build a better world."

The archbishop welcomed the nearly 6,000 journalists from more than 60 countries who are in Brazil to cover the Papal events.

At a July 22 event to open the international Media Center in Copacabana, Archbishop Tempesta described the Pope as a spiritual leader "who left Latin America and now returns as the 'first pilgrim' of World Youth Day."

While acknowledging difficulties in the country, the archbishop said the gathering of young people and the Holy Father gives him hope.

"We have our problems and there are protests, but we believe the beauty, energy and the hope of so many young people from across the world will help to build a world of greater peace and justice," he said.

Eduardo Paes, mayor of Rio de Janeiro, said that city officials "see this visit as a great opportunity to better confront the challenges facing Rio."

"This is a young, growing, diverse city which is looking to be better integrated," he explained. "This visit, and the dialogue that Pope Francis will have with the people of Rio, will help us greatly."

Several young people from around the world told their stories of travelling to World Youth Day. Syrian engineer Bashar Khoury, 29, hopes that he can use social media to proclaim a message of peace to those in Damascus.

"What I want to do, as a member of the social media team, is to transmit to the Arab world an authentic image of Christianity and our faith," he said.

Crespim Mabuluco Stephen came from Mozambique to attend the international event. After taking part in World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid, he said, "I wanted to re-live the experience."

The 24-year-old explained that he asked his employer "to pay my salary a year and a half in advance to cover the costs of the trip."

Alberto Pérez spent two months walking from Resistencia Chaco, Argentina, to Rio de Janeiro, documenting the journey on Facebook. 

"I felt deep within the need to do something that really was really useful," the 27-year-old pilgrim reflected.

Pérez also used the opportunity to pray for a heart donation for a two-year-old in Argentina named Renzo.

"The Lord answered my prayer," he said. "Now I ask that I and other young people in Rio go back home with new hearts."

Elsa Vázquez said that she came from Mexico to volunteer on the World Youth Day organizing committee for the second time.

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 Vázquez previously volunteered at the event in Sydney, Australia, and found that it made a deep impression on her.

"There is nothing like it in the world that brings together young people to give them a message of peace and hope," she said.

"Many people think I've given up everything for the Church, but in fact through the Church I've been given everything," she continued, explaining that she even met her husband through World Youth Day.

"When you give yourself wholly to God, He can act in us," she stressed.

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