"How could you not be capable of changing this society and accomplishing all you decide to do!" he said, and told them to "dare to dream big … please, don't think small. Dream high, and dream big!"
Youth have a special knack for recognizing pain and suffering in others, he said, noting that this is made obvious by the sheer number of youth who serve as volunteers in programs to help the poor and needy.
But this quality can also emerge "in contexts where death, pain and division have impacted you so deeply that they have left you half-dazed, as if numb," he said, alluding to the effects of the country's longstanding civil war, which has largely de-escalated, thanks in part to the encouragement of Pope Francis and the Holy See.
With as many as 260,000 killed and millions displaced in the five-decade conflict, Francis told the youth to "allow the suffering of your Colombian brothers and sisters to strike you and mobilize you! Help us, your elders, not to grow accustomed to pain and neglect."
Those who come from complex backgrounds and different family situations "have grown used to seeing that not everything is black and white; you have seen that daily life is made up of a broad scale of grey tones, and that this can expose you to the risk of falling into a climate of relativism, thus discarding that potentiality which young people have, of perceiving the pain of those who suffered."
Youth not only have the ability to recognize and point out mistakes, but they are also capable of something more "beautiful (and) constructive." This, he said, is the ability of "understanding. An understanding that even behind a wrong – for wrong is (always) wrong and cannot be just smoothed over – lies an endless number of causes, of mitigating factors." He reiterated that "wrong is always wrong: you can't put lipstick on it."
"Colombia needs you so much to put yourselves in the shoes of those who, many generations earlier, could not or did not know how to do so, or did not come up with the right way to reach understanding," he said.
Another unique ability which, while generally difficult, comes a bit easier to youth is the ability to forgive, especially those who have hurt us, Francis said.
"It is remarkable to see how you do not get entangled in old stories, how you watch with surprise when we adults repeat events that divide us simply by being tied to resentments," he said, telling youth they are able to help their elders "in the desire to leave behind what has hurt us, to look to the future without the burden of hatred."
"You make us see the wider world which stands before us, the whole of Colombia that wishes to grow and continue its development; that Colombia which needs all of us, and which we older people owe to you," he said.
Because of this, youth now face the challenging task of "helping us to heal," he said.
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"An atmosphere of anxiety sickens the soul; it sees no way out of problems, and ostracizes those who try," he said, and voiced hope that the dreams of the youth would "give fresh life to Colombia, and fill the country with wholesome goals."
"Only in this way will people be motivated to discover the country hidden behind the mountains, the one that goes beyond newspaper headlines and which does not seem to be a daily concern since it is so far away," he said.
The Pope noted that young people are often "spurred into action" when faced with great challenges, and told them he believes they have what it takes "to build the nation we have always dreamed of."
Pope Francis closed his address by offering a word to all those present "as someone bringing you hope."
"Do not let difficulties weigh you down; may violence not break you; may evil not overwhelm you," he said, noting that as Christians, we believe Christ has already conquered evil, sin, and death, and "all we need to do is go out to meet him."
"I invite you not to be just dutiful but to be committed to renewing society, so that it will be just, stable and fruitful," he said, and urged them to place their trust in the Lord, "who is the only one who sustains us and inspires us to contribute to reconciliation and peace."