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Pope to Ugandan youth: You are a people of martyrs

IMG 20151128 WA0060 2 Ugandan youth greeted Pope Francis with welcome signs and big smiles today during a meeting at Kampala's airport. / Martha Calderon/CNA

On his last day in Uganda, Pope Francis heard testimonies of suffering from young people and praised Ugandan’s faith, which he said comes from the martyrs who have come before them.

“All of you, be aware, be aware that you are a people of martyrs,” the Pope said in Spanish, with the help of an interpreter into English, during the youth encounter at the Kololo Air Strip in Kampala.

“Through your own veins runs the blood of martyrs, and that's why you have such a strong faith and life that you enjoy now.”

Pope Francis reflected on the example of the martyrs, saying “in order to live, we have to die...but, through that death, there is light for all.”

The pontiff's meeting with young people was one of the last events in his Nov. 27-28 visit to Uganda, the second country in his tri-nation African tour which began Nov. 25 with his stop in Kenya, and will conclude Nov. 30 with his visit to the Central African Republic.

 

 

Young people at a meeting with Pope Francis in Uganda this morning! #PopeinUganda #popefrancis

A photo posted by Catholic News Agency (@catholicnewsagency) on

Before addressing the young people, Pope Francis heard several testimonies, including that of a young woman named Winnie who lost both parents as a child and who is herself HIV positive, and a young man named Emmanuel who had spent several months in captivity in 2003 after being kidnapped by Lord’s Resistance Army rebels.

 

In her testimony, Winnie, 24, spoke of the challenge of losing her parents at the age of seven, and of managing her disease.

“Take charge of your life because God loves you and he wants you to continue bear witness amidst all the challenges faced by young people,” she told Pope Francis.

The other testimony came from Emmanuel who shared his story of being one of 41 students kidnapped from Sacred Heart Minor Seminary, Lacor. He and his fellow prisoners were tortured, while others were killed. He managed to escape captivity after three months, and has since earned a degree in business administration, but asked for prayers for the eleven seminarians still in captivity.

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“To those who tortured us, am glad my heart has found love, forgiveness, peace and joy. They are all forgiven because Jesus Christ broke the power of death by suffering on the Cross,” Emmanuel said.

After listening to these testimonies “with great pain in my heart,” Pope Francis spoke on the meaning of negative experiences and suffering.

Reflecting on Winnie's testimony, the Pope explained that Jesus can perform “great miracles” in life.

“A wall can be transformed into a path towards the future,” he said. “There's always the possibility of opening a door, a horizon to the future, and to open it through the Power of Jesus.”

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“Winnie transformed her depression and bad experiences into hope. This isn't magic. This is the work of Jesus Christ, because Jesus is Lord. Jesus can do everything.”

The pontiff said Jesus had experienced the greatest sufferings in history, having been “insulted, rejected, and murdered,” but was Risen from the dead.

“He can do the same in us with every single thing that we experience, because Jesus is Lord.”

Pope Francis turned his reflection to the witness given by Emmanuel who managed to escape from a brutal captivity.

“A light is like a seed. In order to live, we have to die. And dying sometimes like Emmanuel's friends – Dying as Charles Lwanga died, and the martyrs – but, through that death there is light for all.

“If I can transform the negative into positive, I am triumphant in the Lord. But, that can only be done with the grace of Jesus Christ.”

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The Pope then issued a challenge to the young people present:  “Are you ready in life to transform all your negative experiences into positive ones? Are you ready to transform hate into love? Are you ready to transform war into peace?”

At one point during the address, the interpreter's microphone stopped working, prompting Pope Francis to use the minor mishap to illustrate his point.

“When we're not working properly (like the microphone), who do we have to turn to for help? Jesus!”

“He can tear down all the walls that lie before you.”

Pope Francis stressed the importance of prayer to the young people present. In the fight against oppression, in the fight against HIV, the Pope said to ask Jesus for help, and to fight against these challenges with prayer.

In particular, he urged them to pray to Jesus and Mary, saying: “When we have a problem, the first thing we can do is go to our mother. Pray to Mary, our mother.”

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“Pray to the Lord Jesus, because he is the only Lord,” the Pope said.

He went on to remind the young people: “In the Church, we are not orphans, because we have Mary our mother.”