“Go and make disciples of all nations!” (cf. Mt 28:19)
By Ernest Ohlhoff, NRLC Director of Outreach
Pope Francis fulfilling the schedule of the 28th World Youth Day (WYD) events prepared by his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI, is expected to draw and unprecedented turn out of young people in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 23 to 28.
In his October 18, 2012 message regarding this 28th World Youth Day, Pope Benedict affirmed how important it is for young people to recognize and proclaim the value of life:
“History shows how many young people, by their generous gift of self, made a great contribution to the Kingdom of God and the development of this world by proclaiming the Gospel…
“Many young people today seriously question whether life is something good, and have a hard time finding their way. More generally, however, young people look at the difficulties of our world and ask themselves: is there anything I can do? The light of faith illumines this darkness. It helps us to understand that every human life is priceless because each of us is the fruit of God’s love. God loves everyone, even those who have fallen away from him or disregard him. God waits patiently.”
Pope Benedict XVI also referred to a powerful message which was made to the youth of the world by Pope Paul VI at the end of the Second Vatican Council on December 8, 1965. It began:
“It is to you, young men and women of the world, that the Council wishes to address its final message. For it is you who are to receive the torch from the hands of your elders and to live in the world at the period of the most massive transformations ever realized in its history. It is you who, taking up the best of the example and the teaching of your parents and your teachers, will shape the society of tomorrow. You will either be saved or perish with it.”
It concluded with the words: “Build with enthusiasm a better world than what we have today!”
Based on a number of his previous strong pro-life statements, many expect that Pope Francis will also include pro-life themes in Rio, as he encourages young people to act as disciples. For example, in a July 17, 2013 message, the Pope called British and Irish Catholics to witness to the value of human life:
“Calling to mind the teaching of Saint Irenaeus that the glory of God is seen in a living human being, the Holy Father encourages all of you to let the light of that glory shine so brightly that everyone may come to recognize the inestimable value of all human life. Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect. His Holiness prays that the Day for Life will help to ensure that human life always receives the protection that is its due …”
Pope Francis again championed the pro-life cause telling thousands of people who gathered in Rome to protest abortion and secure legal protection for innocent human life for the earliest stages of life saying:
“I greet the participants of the March for Life which took place this morning in Rome and invite everyone to stay focused on the important issue of respect for human life, from the moment of conception.”
In a 2005 homily while serving as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the then Cardinal Bergoglio said,
“When one hears what Jesus says:¨ ‘Look, I am sending you, I am sending you like sheep amongst wolves,’ one wants to ask Him, ‘Lord, are you kidding, or don´t you have a better place to send us? ‘Because it is a little frightening what Jesus is saying: ‘If you carry my message forth, they are going to persecute you, they are going to calumniate you, they are going to lay traps in order to deliver you to the tribunals so they can kill you. But you go ahead, and because of that be careful,’…’and be alert, be wise as the serpent but simple as the doves…'”
And, in his 2010 book, On Heaven and Earth, the future Pope stated:
“The moral problem of abortion is of a pre-religious nature because the genetic code of the person is present at the moment of conception. There is already a human being. I separate the issue of abortion from any religious concept. It is a scientific problem. To not allow further progress in the development of a being that already has the entire genetic code of a human being is not ethical. The right to life is the first human right. Abortion is killing someone who cannot defend himself.”
As a native of Argentina and the first Pope elected from the Americas, Pope Francis is expected to energize vast numbers of young people who will attend or watch WYD. The Vatican has been using social media to reach out to students including a tweet to WYD attendees from the Pope.
Also, through extensive live coverage by the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) on the internet, television, and radio, people all over the world will be able to view and share content from WYD events. A feature especially attractive to students is likely to be EWTN’s use of an exclusive immersive filming technology during WYD. EWTN WYD 360 will film the program using a special camera with 11 lenses which will allow the viewer to use interactive streaming video to see each event from 360 degrees simply by using one’s computer mouse.
It will be available on www.facebook.com/ewtnonline, and on www.ewtn.com, beginning July 22.