During his Apostolic Journey to the Baltic States, Pope Francis arrived today in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, where he met with a group of young Christians. At this ecumenical event in the Kaarli (Charles) Lutheran Church, the pope was greeted by the Lutheran archbishop and a group of children from different Christian schools. After testimonies from Lutheran, Orthodox, and Catholic representatives, the Holy Father addressed the assembly.
Read the full text of his speech below:
Dear Young Friends,
Thank you for your warm welcome, for your songs and for the testimonies of Lisbel, Tauri and Mirko. I am grateful to the Archbishop of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Urmas Viilma, for his kind words of welcome, and for the presence of Archbishop Andres Po?der, President of the Estonian Council of Churches, of Bishop Philippe Jourdan, Apostolic Administrator in Estonia, and of representatives from the different Christian communities in the country.
It is always good to meet, to share our life stories, and to share with one another our thoughts and hopes; it is wonderful, too, for us to come together as believers in Jesus Christ. These meetings bring to fulfilment that dream of Jesus at the Last Supper: “That they may all be one ... so that the world may believe” (Jn
17:21). If we try to see ourselves as pilgrims journeying together, we will learn how to entrust our heart to our travelling companions without fear and distrust, looking only to what we all truly seek: peace in the presence of the one God. Just as crafting peace is an art, so too, learning to trust one another is also an art and a source of happiness: “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt
The great painting in the apse of this church contains a phrase from the Gospel of Saint Matthew: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt
11:28). You, as young Christians, can identify with some of the things going on in this section of the Gospel.
Just before Jesus speaks those words, Matthew tells us that he was saddened because he felt that those who heard him simply did not understand what he was trying to say (cf. Mt
11:16-19). Frequently you too, as young people, can feel that the adults around you do not appreciate your hope and desires; sometimes, when they see you very happy, they get suspicious; and if they see you anxious about something, they downplay it. In the consultation prior to the forthcoming Synod on young people, many of you expressed the desire to have a companion along the way, someone who can understand you without judging and can listen and answer your questions (cf. Synod on Young People, Instrumentum Laboris
, 132). Our Christian churches – and I would say this of every institutionally structured religious organization – at times bring attitudes that make it easier for us to talk, give advice, speak from our own experience, rather than listen, be challenged and learn from what you are experiencing.
We know that you want and expect “to be accompanied not by an unbending judge, or by a fearful and hyper-protective parent who generates dependence, but by someone who is not afraid of his weakness and is able to make the treasure it holds within, like an earthen vessel, shine (cf. 2 Cor
, 142). Today, I am here to tell you that we want to mourn with you when you mourn, to accompany and support you, to share in your joys, and to help you to be followers of the Lord.
Jesus goes on to complain about the cities he visited, where he worked great miracles and demonstrated signs of great tenderness and closeness. He was displeased at their inability to see that the change he came to bring was urgent and not to be delayed. He even says that they are more stubborn and obdurate than Sodom (cf. Mt
11:20-24). When we adults refuse to acknowledge some evident reality, you tell us frankly: “Can’t you see this?” Some of you who are a bit more forthright might even say to us: “Don’t you see that nobody is listening to you any more, or believes what you have to say?” We ourselves need to be converted; we have to realize that in order to stand by your side we need to change many situations that, in the end, put you off. We know – and you have told us – that many young people do not turn to us for anything because they don’t feel we have anything meaningful to say to them. In fact, some of them expressly ask us to leave them alone, because they feel the Church’s presence as bothersome or even irritating. They are upset by sexual and economic scandals that do not meet with clear condemnation, by our unpreparedness to really appreciate the lives and sensibilities of the young, and simply by the passive role we assign them (cf. Synod on Young People, Instrumentum Laboris
, 66). These are just a few of your complaints. We want to respond to them; as you yourselves put it, we want to be a “transparent, welcoming, honest, inviting, communicative, accessible, joyful and interactive community” (ibid.
In the verses that immediately precede the words of the Gospel quoted in the painting above us, Jesus breaks out in praise of the Father. He does so because he realizes that those who did understand, who did grasp the meaning of his message and his person, are the little ones. Seeing all of you like this, gathered as one and singing together, I add my own voice to that of Jesus and I marvel that, for all our lack of witness, you continue to discover Jesus in our communities. Because we know that where Jesus is, there is always renewal; there are always new opportunities for conversion and for leaving behind everything that separates us from him and our brothers and sisters. Where Jesus is, life always has the flavour of the Holy Spirit. You, here today, reflect something of the marvel that Jesus felt.
So yes, let us repeat his words: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Mt
11:28). But let us say them in the conviction that, beyond all our limitations and divisions, Jesus is still the reason for our being here. We know no greater peace of mind can be found than by letting Jesus carry our burdens. We also know that many people still do not know him, and live in sadness and confusion. A famous singer of yours, about ten years ago said in one of her songs: “Love is dead, love is gone, love don’t live here anymore” (Kerli Ko?iv, Love is Dead
). Many people have that experience: they see that their parents no longer love one another, that the love of newlyweds soon fades. They see a lack of love in the fact that nobody cares that they have to migrate to look for work, or look askance at them because they are foreigners. It might seem that love is dead, but we know that it is not, and that we have a word to say, a message to bring, with few words and many actions. For you are a generation of images and action, more than speculation and theory.
And that is how Jesus likes it, because he went about doing good, and when dying he preferred the striking message of the cross over mere words. We are united by our faith in Jesus, and he is waiting for us to bring him to all those young people whose lives are no longer meaningful. Let us accept together that newness that God brings to our life, that newness that impels us to set out anew to all those places where humanity is most wounded. Wherever men and women, beneath the appearance of a shallow conformity, continue to seek an answer to the question of life’s meaning. Yet we will never go alone: God comes with us; “He is unafraid of the fringes, he himself became a fringe (cf. Phil
1:14). So if we dare to go to the fringes, we will find him there; indeed, he is already there. Jesus is already there, in the hearts of our brothers and sisters, in their wounded flesh, in their troubles and in their profound desolation. He is already there” (Gaudete et Exsultate
Love is not dead. It calls us and sends us forth. Let us ask for the apostolic strength to bring the Gospel to others and to resist the tendency to see our Christian life as if it were a museum of memories. May the Holy Spirit help us to contemplate history in the light of the risen Jesus, so that the Church will be able to continue to welcome the Lord’s surprises (cf. ibid
, 139), and to the youthfulness, joy and beauty of the Bride who goes forth to meet her Lord.