One of the most inspiring events during Pope Francis' three-day visit to Slovakia was a meeting with young people in Košice. More than 21 thousand visitors filled the Lokomotíva Košice football stadium and warmly welcomed Pope Francis, who first circled all the areas and sectors of the field in the Popemobile so that those present could see him up close. He then listened to three testimonies from young people about their lives, afflictions and tragedies, but also about their ultimate solutions and finding the meaning of life. They asked three specific questions, requesting the Pope for an answer.
When asked by a young couple about love as a couple, he answered: “Love is the biggest dream in life, but it is not a cheap dream. It is nice, but not easy, just like all the great things in life. Friends, let us not make love banal, because love is not just emotions and feelings; these are, at most, her beginnings. Love does not mean having everything and now, it does not follow the logic of "use and throw away". Love is fidelity, a gift, a responsibility. The real originality today, the real revolution, is to free oneself from the culture of provisionality, to go beyond instinct and beyond the moment, to love for life, and with all one's being. We are not here to live from day to day, but to make our lives an adventurous journey. For life to be great, both are needed: love and heroism. Please, let's not let the days of our lives flow like episodes in a soap opera. Therefore, when you dream of love, do not believe in special effects, but in the fact that each of you is exceptional: each of you. Everyone is a gift and can make life, their own life, a gift. Dream of beauty that transcends appearance, transcends makeup that transcends fashion trends. Dream without fear of starting a family, of having children and of raising children, of giving life, of sharing everything with another person, without being ashamed of your weaknesses, because here is someone who accepts and loves them, who loves you just the way you are. And this is love: to love the other as he or she is, and this is beautiful. The dreams we have tell us about the life we long for. Don't listen to those who tell you about dreams and sell you illusions instead. Dreaming is one thing, having illusions is another. Those who sell illusions by talking about dreams: they are the manipulators of happiness. We were created for greater joy: each of us is unique and came to this world to feel loved in your uniqueness, and to love others as no one can do it for you.
I would like to give you further advice. For love to bear fruit, do not forget your roots. And what are your roots? Parents and especially grandparents. Listen carefully, yes, grandparents. They have prepared the ground for you. Water the roots, go to the grandparents, they will do you good: ask them questions, take the time to hear their stories. Today, the danger is to grow up uprooted because we tend to run, do everything quickly. Full of virtual messages, we risk losing our true roots. To disconnect from life, to fantasize in the void is not good, it is a temptation from evil. God wants us to be firmly planted on earth, connected with life; never closed, but always open to all! To be firmly rooted and open. Do you understand? Firmly rooted and open. Dear young people, do not be influenced by what is not good, by the evil that rages. Do not be overwhelmed by the grief or resigned disgust of those who say that nothing will change. He who believes this will become ill with pessimism. And have you seen the face of a young person, a young pessimist? Did you see his face? A bitter face, face scarred by bitterness. Pessimism infuriates us. It will make us grow old internally. You will grow old in your youth. Today there are so many destructive forces, those who blame everyone and everything, spread negativism, all those experts in complaining. Don't listen to them, don't believe them, because complaining and pessimism are not Christian."
And this leads us to answer young Petra's second question: "How can a young person overcome obstacles on the path to God's mercy?" There is a reliable means to help us get up again. It's a confession. If I ask you, "What do you think about before you go to confess?" - but don't say it out loud - I'm almost sure of the answer: "About the sins." But - I ask you, are sins really the center of confession? Does God want you to approach Him by thinking of yourself, your sins, or him? What does God want? How to bring you closer to him, or to your sins? What does he want? What is the center, the sins, or the Father who forgives all sins? The Father. We do not go to confession as the punished ones who must humble themselves, but as children who run into the Father's embrace. And the Father lifts us in every situation, He forgives us every sin. Listen well to this: God always forgives! Do you understand? God always forgives!
Let me give you a little advice: after each confession, stay for a while and remember the forgiveness you received. Keep that peace in your heart, the freedom you feel inside. Not the sins that no longer exist, but the forgiveness that God has given you, the caress of God the Father. And the next time you go to confession, remember: I'll get the hug that made me so well again. I am not going to settle accounts with the judge, but to Jesus, who loves me and heals me. Let us put God first in confession. If he is the main character, everything becomes beautiful and confession becomes a sacrament of joy. Yes, joy: not fear and judgment, but joy. And it is important that priests be merciful. I beg you, never curious, never inquisitive, but as brothers who give the Father's forgiveness, who accompany them in that embrace of the Father.
Someone might say, "I'm still ashamed, I can't overcome the shame of going to confess." It's not a problem, it's a good thing! Sometimes it is good to be ashamed in life. If you are ashamed, it means that you do not agree with what you have done. Shame is a good sign, but like any sign it requires going further. Don't be a prisoner of shame, because God is never ashamed of you. He loves you right where you are ashamed of yourself. And he always loves you.
And one last doubt: "But Father, I cannot forgive myself, and therefore God cannot forgive me, for I will always fall and repeat the same sins." But listen, when will God be offended? When are you going to ask him for forgiveness? No, never. God suffers when we think he can't forgive us because it's like telling him, "You're weak in love!" To say this to God is ugly! To tell him you are "weak in love." On the contrary, God rejoices when He forgives us, every time. When he picks us up, he believes in us just like the first time, he will not be discouraged. We will be discouraged, he will not. He does not see the sinners he would label, but the children he loves. He does not see the sinners, but beloved children; maybe hurt, and then he has even more compassion and tenderness. And every time we confess - we should never forget it - there is a celebration in heaven. Let it be so on earth! ”
Finally, Peter and Lenka asked how to "encourage young people not to be afraid to embrace the cross." “Embrace: that's a nice verb! A hug helps to overcome fear. When we are embraced, we regain confidence in ourselves and also in life. So let us embrace Jesus. Because when we embrace Jesus, we get hope again. We cannot embrace the cross alone; pain does not save anyone. What transforms pain is love. So we embrace the cross with Jesus, never alone! If we embrace Jesus, joy is born again. And the joy of Jesus, in pain, is transformed into peace. Dear young people, boys and girls, I wish you this joy, stronger than anything else. I wish you would bring it to your friends. Not sermons, but joy. Bring joy! Not words, but smiles, brotherly closeness. Thank you for listening to me, and I ask you for one last thing: don't forget to pray for me. Well, thank you!"
On the last day of his visit to Slovakia, on the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Seven Sorrows, the Patron Saint of Slovakia, which is also the national holiday of the Slovak Republic, Pope Francis spoke to hundreds of thousands of pilgrims at the annual National Pilgrimage in Šaštín, which thus helped to maintain Christianity and the faith even during the communist oppression in the former Czechoslovakia. Pope Francis preached mainly on the importance of the faith of the Virgin Mary, but he also had this message for today's Slovakia and the whole world:
"Let's not forget that we must not reduce the faith to sugar, which sweetens life. We can't do that. Jesus is a sign they will oppose. He came to bring light where there was dark, bringing the darkness to light and having the dark to retreat. That is why the darkness is still fighting against him. He who receives Christ and opens himself to him rises from the dead; he who rejects him shuts himself in darkness and is the cause of his own destruction. Jesus explained to his disciples that he did not bring peace to the world, but a sword: for his Word is like a double-edged sword; it penetrates our lives, separates light from darkness, and invites us to choose: he says, "Choose!". No one can remain lukewarm before Jesus, or "sit on two chairs at once." No, that's not possible. To accept him is to agree that he reveals contradictions, idols, inspirations of evil in me, and to become a resurrection for me, because He lifts me up, shakes my hand, and helps me begin again. He always lifts me up again and again.
And it is such prophets that today's Slovakia needs. It is not a matter of being hostile to the world, but of being a sign in the world "to be opposed", of Christians who can show the beauty of the Gospel with their lives, of people who engage in dialogue where there are different attitudes that reveal fraternal life; where, if there is division and discord in society, they spread a pleasant scent of acceptance and solidarity where personal and collective forms of selfishness often prevail; who protect and preserve life where the logic of death applies.”
It was a great experience to personally participate in both events and share with you the ideas presented by Pope Francis. Details of each event and records of its speeches were published by the portal https://www.vaticannews.va/en.html