Pope Francis’ address followed a rally attended by hundreds of thousands of young Americans demanding tighter gun laws in the United States. Also at this rally were Gabriella Zuniga and her sister, Valentina who were both students of Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida where, in February, 17 young people were gunned down.
Speaking to a crowd of tens of thousands in St Peter’s Square on Palm Sunday and World Day of Youth, he shared stories from the Bible and urged the gathering of young people to stay strong and keep themselves from being manipulated.
“The temptation to silence young people has always existed,” Pope Francis said in his homily.
“There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible. Many ways to anaesthetise them, to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing. There are many ways to sedate them, to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive,” he continued.
The Pope drew a parallel between them and those who greeted Jesus with palms rather than those who shouted for His crucifixion only days later saying: “It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders, some corrupt, keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?”
Pope Francis’ question was answered with a resounding an emphatic “yes” from the gathered crowd.
Throughout is homily, Pope Francis avoided mentioning the rallies and demonstrations which took place in the United States the day before Palm Sunday. He did, however, condemn weapons manufacturing and the mass shooting which have become almost normal in the United States.
The Pope’s Holy Week activities
Pope Francis’ address to young people marks the beginning of Holy Week leading up to Easter. Later in the week, Pope Francis will preside over two services for Holy Thursday and, in one Holy Thursday service, he will wash the feet of 12 inmates in a Rome prison.
The act is reminiscent of Jesus’s gesture of humility toward his apostles the night before He died.
Good Friday will see the Pope leading a Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession at the Colosseum and, on Saturday night, Pope Francis will lead an Easter vigil service.
Holy Week will conclude on Easter Sunday as Pope Francis delivers his bi-annual “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message.