Rio de Janeiro, 28 July
It’s daybreak, the temperature is less than 20 degrees, but on Copacabana beach they are already getting into the water and riding the ocean waves. More than a million pilgrims stayed on the beach to sleep, making most of the beautiful evening: many others started to appear from the early hours of the morning, waiting for the arrival of the Pope, to pray together, singing and reenacting the biggest ever flashmob for Pope Francis. There were 3 million people dancing on Copacabana beach, following the moves of the dancers on stage, which was projected on the big screen.
Pope Francis arrives, after having circled the statue of Christ the Saviour, the symbol of Rio and this WYD, in his helicopter: “We are already starting to miss the moments that we have lived with you, in which you have confirmed us in the faith” said Monsignor Orani João Tempesta to the Pope at the beginning of mass. The archbishop also wanted to emphasise that “this is not a celebration of adieu, but a setting off on mission”, “the fruits of these days help to form a Church that is present among the poor, sick, needy and that the youth are builders of this civilisation of love willed by Jesus.”
“Go, without fear, to serve”: this was the message that the Pope wanted to give the youth at Copacabana, who listened to him with rapt attention. The invite to “go” was the first passage upon which the Pope lingered, saying to the young people that “the experience of this meeting cannot remain closed upon itself in our lives or in little parish groups or movements in your communities. It would be like taking the oxygen away from a burning flame. Faith is a flame that comes to life when it is shared and transmitted, because everyone is capable of knowing, loving and professing Jesus Christ who is the Lord of life and history.” And sustaining this invite assures that “Jesus doesn't treat us like slaves, but as free men, as friends, as brothers; and He not only invites us, but He accompanies us, and is always by our side in this mission of love.”
The Gospel spoke of going “without fear”, to which Pope Francis explained that “Jesus didn’t say ‘You go’, but ‘All of you go’: we are invited together. Dear young people, feel the company of the entire Church and the communion of the Saints in this mission”. He then stressed: “When we confront the challenges together, we are strong, we discover resources that we didn't know we had. Jesus didn’t call the apostles to live isolated, but to form a group, a community.”
He finally explained the third term of sending, “to serve”. The Pope said that “to evangelise is to witness the love of God in first person, it is to overcome our egoism, it is to serve by bending down to wash the feet of our brothers, as Jesus did.”
In the last part of the homily, Pope Francis remarked that “following these three words, you will experience that whomsoever evangelises, who transmits the joy of faith, receives joy”. “Dear young people, when you go back to your houses, don't be afraid to be generous with Christ, to witness to his Gospel”. “Jesus Christ is counting on you! The Church is counting on you! The Pope is counting on you!” The last words were of devotion to Mary, the “Mother of Jesus and our Mother”, appealing for her protection: “That she always accompanies you with her tenderness. ‘Go and make disciples of all nations.’”
At the the end of Mass, cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, thanked Pope Francis.
“In front of you, Your Holiness, there are youth from the remotest parts of the earth. It is a beautiful symbol of the young Church, full of hope!”. “These days have been fantastic ones of gigantic evangelical sowing of seeds: around 300 bishops have held catechises in 27 different languages; there have been many moments of silent prayer; many young people have attended the sacrament of reconciliation; there’s been so much joy in being together as brothers and sisters, witnessing before the world that it is beautiful to be Christian, that it is worth it to follow Christ in one’s life!”
He concluded by saying “Holy Father, bless these young disciples and missionaries of Christ. They are here ready to set off from this immense Feast into the open” in order to “witness their faith until the extreme ends of the earth!”
Finally, there was the Angelus and the announcement of the next WYD: “Dear young people, we have our appointment for the next WYD, in 2016, in Krakow, Poland” said the Holy Father, as the Polish in the crowd erupted into gleeful applause.
So the XXVIII WYD came to an end, but there was space for Pope Francis to make one more appointment before leaving for Rome: he met with 15.000 of the 60.000 volunteers that helped to organise the event.
The volunteers gathered in the Central Congress of Rio where they welcomed and thanked the Pope: “With great joy we volunteers are here to witness the love of God, our great and eternal companion. To guide us and give us strength in moments of weakness was the fact that we were here for God. This was our great motivation.”
“I couldn't return to Rome without having thanked in a personal and affectionate way each one of you”, replied the Pope, remembering the “many little gestures that have made this WYD an unforgettable experience of faith”. With the “smiles of each one of you, with your courtesy and availability, you have proven that it is more blessed to give than to receive”; The Pope then invited the volunteers to be “always generous with God and with others: nothing is lost, on the contrary, the great richness of life is what is received.!”
Thus the XXVIII WYD was concluded, and now the journey to Krakow begins, while Copacabana continues to celebrate on into the evening.