By Elise Harris/CNA
VATICAN— As young people gathered in Indonesia for the 7th Asian Youth Day prepare to head home, Pope Francis sent a message encouraging them to be courageous, and to turn to Mary as a model of what it means to be a missionary.
In an Aug. 6 telegram signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the prelate extended “warm greetings and prayerful best wishes” to all participating in the event on behalf of Pope Francis.
The Pope, he said, “prays that young people from across Asia will listen ever more attentively to God’s call and respond with faith and courage to their vocation.”
Looking ahead to the global World Youth Day gathering in Panama in 2019, Francis invited the youth to turn to Mart, the Mother of God as “ a model of missionary discipleship, to speak to her as they would to a mother, and to trust always in her loving intercession.”
“In this way, as they seek to follow Christ Jesus more closely, they too, like the young woman of Nazareth, can truly “improve the world and leave an imprint that makes a mark on history,” he said, giving his blessing and entrusting the youth and their families to Mary’s intercession.
Pope Francis’ message was sent on the final day of the Aug. 2-6 Asian Youth Day gathering in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, holding the theme: “Joyful Asian Youth: Living the Gospel in Multicultural Asia.”
More than two thousand young Catholics from all over Asia took part in the gathering, which came a year after the international WYD gathering in Krakow, Poland last summer, attended by Pope Francis.
The Pope was also present during the last Asian Youth Day, which coincided with Pope Francis’ Aug. 13-18, 2014, visit to South Korea, and centered on the theme: “Asian Youth! Wake up! The glory of the martyrs shines upon you!”
This year’s event in Indonesia featured talks and workshops on aimed at building mutual respect in Asia’s diverse, multicultural population, caring for the environment and learning how to be missionaries in a digital world.
As part of the multicultural aspect and in an effort to address growing fundamentalism in the area, the event hosted several encounters between Christian, Islamic and other religious leaders.
Among the Asian Catholic leaders who attended the event were Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay and a member of the Pope’s “C9” council of cardinal advisers, and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila and President of the Caritas Internationalis aid organization.
Indonesia’s Vice President, Muhammad Jusuf Kalla, was present at the closing ceremony Aug. 6, when it was announced that India will be the location of the next Asian Youth Day.
The main celebrant at the closing Mass was Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta, who at the end of his homily noted that attendees come from all over Asia.
“We do realize our differences: we are of different nationalities, different languages, different cultures, and so on,” he said.
“However, in this event, we do realize and experience that those differences cannot separate us, but the differences show the richness of the united humanity instead. It proves that the power of faith, hope and love unites us.”
Suharyo closed by voicing his hope that the event would help the youths to “diligently and faithfully live out Gospel so that we may be filled with the joy of the Gospel. Thus, our life could mirror the glory of the Lord, which changes our lives.”