At the Stations of the Cross for World Youth Day on Friday, Pope Francis encouraged the young pilgrims to embrace the cross and to walk with those who are suffering.

Christ "walks and suffers in all those faces hurt by the complacent and anesthetizing indifference of our society that consumes and is consumed, that ignores and is ignorant, blind to the pain of our brothers and sisters," he said Jan. 25 at Panama City's Campo Santa Maria la Antigua. The city is hosting World Youth Day Jan. 22-27.

The Pope said the Way of the Cross is the path of love, and contrasted it to the common routes of indifference and complacency. He said it is easier to ignore the vulnerable and even add to their inflictions.

"All too often, we have ended up going along with the crowd, and this has paralyzed us," he said. "We have looked away in order not to see; we have taken refuge in noise in order not to hear; we have covered our mouths in order not to cry out."

"The temptation is always the same. It is easier and 'it pays' to be friends in triumphs and in glory, in success and applause; it is easier to be around someone who is considered popular and a winner. How easy it is to fall into a culture of bullying, harassment and intimidation."

This is the opposite of how Christ interacts with humanity, said Pope Francis, noting that at Calvary he united himself with all who suffer.

Christ's Way of the Cross continues today, the pope said, "in the muffled cry of children kept from being born and of so many others denied the right to a childhood, a family, an education."

It continues also in "women who are mistreated, exploited and abandoned," in young people who "lack education and dignified work," and in those ensnared by exploitation and criminal activity."

"Your Son's way of the cross continues in all those young people and families who, caught up in a spiral of death as a result of drugs, alcohol, prostitution and human trafficking, are deprived not only of a future but also of a present. Just as they divided your garments, Lord, their dignity is divided and mistreated," he said.

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He further added that Christ's cross also continues in the abuse of nature: "profoundly wounded by the pollution of her skies, the barrenness of her fields, the contamination of her waters, trampled underfoot by disregard and a fury of consumption beyond all reason."

The Pope then raised the question: how should Christians respond to these sufferings?

He said Catholics must replicate the response of the Virgin Mother, who stood with conviction beneath her son at the cross, sharing in the suffering of Christ but not being overwhelmed by it.

"From her let us learn how to stand beneath the cross with her same determination and courage, without evasions or illusions. She accompanied the suffering of her Son, your Son; she supported him by her gaze and protected him with her heart," he said.

He said that as Mary responded to God with a "yes," the Catholic Church should replicate this obedience to those in need. He said that in Mary, the Christian is able to say "yes" to the immigrant, the family, and the homeless.

"Like Mary, we want to be a Church that fosters a culture that welcomes, protects, promotes and integrates; that does not stigmatize, much less indulge in a senseless and irresponsible condemnation of every immigrant as a threat to society," Pope Francis said.

"From her we want to learn to stand beneath the cross, not with hearts tightly shut, but with hearts that can accompany, that feel tenderness and devotion, that show mercy and treat others with respect, sensitivity and understanding."

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