“To believe in Jesus is to accept what he says, even when it runs contrary to what others are saying. It means rejecting the lure of sin, however attractive it may be, in order to set out on the difficult path of the Gospel virtues.Young people listening to me, answer the Lord with strong and generous hearts! He is counting on you. Never forget: Christ needs you to carry out his plan of salvation! Christ needs your youth and your generous enthusiasm to make his proclamation of joy resound in the new millennium. Answer his call by placing your lives at his service in your brothers and sisters! Trust Christ, because he trusts you.”
— Pope John Paul II, address to 350,000 thousand pilgrims at World Youth Day in Toronto on Thursday, July 25, 2002
“We don’t want to convert the young people to Christ or to the Catholic Church or anything like that at all. We want it to be normal for a young Catholic Christian to say and bear witness to who he is or for a young Muslim, Jew, or of another religion to also have no problem saying who he is and bearing witness to it, and for a young person who has no religion to feel welcome and to perhaps not feel strange for thinking in a different way.”
— Bishop Américo Aguiar, the head of World Youth Day (WYD) Lisbon 2023, in a recent interview with RTP Notícias
UPDATE: A few readers have pointed out that Bishop Aguiar’s comment here has been grossly distorted and misrepresented by Catholic News Agency and its partners.
Here is the original context:
Interviewer: Don Américo, there are some topics that are very dear to Pope Francis, and he brings them to this World Youth Day (WYD). There’s Fratelli tutti. This [papal] visit is grounded on Fratelli tutti. “We are all brothers.” Finding others, finding Christ in others. Is that what he brings here?
Aguiar: WYD Lisbon is also a call for this universal fraternity. Some time ago we saw world leaders defending that differences are meant to push away and to divide. The solution for what is different would be the wall, growing apart. WYD must be a school, it must be pedagogical, so that I may learn to know and like what is different. Differences must be enriching; they must be understood as something that enriches us…
Interviewer: And the invitations to other religions must be seen through that angle.
Aguiar: Exactly, to other religions. The invitation for WYD is never for Catholics. Please note, never have the popes made an invitation for Catholic youth, it was always an invitation for the youth all around the world.
And it’s very important that the young people that come to Lisbon—or even Portugal—meet other young people, from Africa, Asia, America, rich, poor, from the West, Catholics, non-Catholics, with religion, without religion, with faith, without faith. They must first understand that this diversity is enriching. Whatever it is, it’s enriching.
Then they must meet each other and allow themselves to be met. From thence, they must take care of each other, love each other, to like each other’s presence. At the end, we hold hands, and we say: “I think differently, I feel differently, I organize my life in a different way, but we are brothers and we are going to build the future together.”
This is the main message of this encounter with the living Christ that the Pope wants to bring to young people: we don’t want to convert young people to Christ, or the Catholic Church, or whatever; what we want is that it’s normal for a Catholic young person to say and witness that he is so; that the young Muslim or Jewish person will also have no problems in saying that he is so, and witnessing to it; that the young person that does not profess any religion feels at ease and not out of place because he is like that; and that we all understand that differences enrich us.
The world will be objectively better if we are able to instill in the hearts of all young people this certainty from Fratelli tutti, that we are all brothers. The pope has made an immense effort to echo this in all hearts. Our hearts and every heart.