Here is the transcription and translation of the address Pope Francis gave today off-the-cuff, to a meeting of youth in Uganda. The original address is also below for reflection purposes.
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I listened with much sorrow in my heart to the testimonies of Winnie and Emmanuel. But as I was listening, I asked myself a question: Can a negative experience serve for something in life? Yes.
Both Winnie and Emmanuel have suffered negative experiences. Winnie thought she had no future. That the life before her was against a wall. But Jesus showed her little by little that he can make a great miracle in life. That he can transform a wall into a horizon. A horizon that opens to the future. In the face of a negative experience — as many of us who are here have had negative experiences — there is always the possibility of opening a horizon. Of opening it with the door of Jesus. Today, Winnie has transformed her depression, her bitterness into hope.
And this isn’t magic. This is the work of Jesus. Because Jesus is Lord. Jesus can do everything. And Jesus suffered the most negative experience in history. He was insulted, he was rejected, he was killed. And Jesus, by the power of God, rose again. He can do the same thing in each one of us with each negative experience. Because Jesus is Lord.
I can imagine — and all of us together, let us imagine — the suffering of Emmanuel. When he saw that his companions were tortured. When he saw that his companions were assassinated. Emmanuel was courageous. He took heart. He knew that if they found him, the day he escaped, they would kill him. He took a risk. He trusted in Jesus. And he escaped. And today we have him here, after 14 years, with a degree in administration sciences.
All is possible. Our life is like a seed; to live, we must die. And sometimes, it is to die physically, like Emmanuel’s companions. To die as Charles Lwanga and the martyrs of Uganda died. But through this death, there is life. A life for everyone. If I transform the negative into positive, I am triumphant. But this can only be done with the grace of Jesus.
Are you certain of this? I didn’t hear! Are you certain? Are you ready to transform all the negative things of life into positive things? Are you ready to transform hate into love? Are you ready to transform, to want to transform, war into peace?
You must be aware that you are a people of martyrs. Through your veins flows the blood of martyrs. And because of this, you have the faith and the life that you have now. And this life is so beautiful that it is called the pearl of Africa.
It seems that the microphone doesn’t work well. Sometimes we ourselves don’t work well. Yes or no?
And when we don’t work well, to whom do we have to ask help? I don’t hear you. Louder!
We have to ask Jesus. Jesus can change your life. Jesus can break down all of the walls that you have before you. Jesus can make of your life a service for others.
Some of you might ask me: For this, is there a magic wand? If you want Jesus to change your life, ask him. And this is called prayer.
Did you understand? To pray. I ask you: Do you pray? Are you sure? Pray to Jesus because he is the savior. Never stop praying. Prayer is the strongest weapon that a youth has.
Jesus loves us. I ask you: Does Jesus love some people and not others? Does Jesus love everyone? Does Jesus want to help everyone? Then open the doors of your heart and allow him to come in.
Allow Jesus to enter into my life. And when Jesus comes into your life, he helps you to fight. To fight agains all of the problems that Winnie spoke of. Fight against depression, fight against AIDS, to ask help to rise above these situations. But always to fight. Fight with my desire, and fight with my prayer. Are you ready to fight? Are you ready to want the best for yourselves? Are you ready to pray, to ask Jesus to help you in the fight?
And a third thing that I want to tell you: All of us are in the Church, we belong to the Church, right? And the Church has a Mother. What’s her name? I can’t hear! Pray to our Mother. When a child falls, gets hurt, he starts to cry and goes to look for his mom. When we have a problem, the best thing we can do is go where our Mother is. And pray to Mary, our mother. Do you agree? Do you pray to the Virgin, our Mother?
Here I ask, do you pray to Jesus and to the Virgin, our Mother?
So three things: rise above difficulties, transform the negative into positive, and third, prayer. Prayer to Jesus who can do everything. That Jesus enters into our hearts. And changes our lives. Jesus, who came to save me and gave his life for me. Pray to Jesus because he is the only Lord. And since in the Church, we are not orphans, and we have a mother, to pray to our Mother. And what is the name of our Mother? Louder!
I thank you very much for having listened to me. I thank you a lot because you want to change the negative into positive. That you want to fight against evil with Jesus at your side, and above all I thank you because you have the desire to never abandon prayer. And now I invite you to pray together to our Mother, that she protects us. Agreed? Everyone together.
A last request: Pray for me. Pray for me. I need it. Don’t forget. Good-bye.
Holy Father: Omukama Mulungi! (God is good!)
Young people: Obudde bwonna! (For ever and ever!)
Dear Young Friends,
I am happy to be here and to share these moments with you. I greet my brother bishops and the civil authorities present, and I thank Bishop Paul Ssemogerere for his words of welcome. The testimonies of Winnie and Emmanuel confirm my impression that the Church in Uganda is alive with young people who want a better future. Today, if you will allow me, I want to confirm you in your faith, encourage you in your love, and in a special way, strengthen you in your hope.
Christian hope is not simply optimism; it is much more. It is rooted in the new life we have received in Jesus Christ. Saint Paul tells us that hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love was poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit at our baptism (cf. Rom 5:5). This hope enables us to trust in Christ’s promises, to trust in the power of his love, his forgiveness, his friendship. That love opens the door to new life. Whenever you experience a problem, a setback, a failure, you must anchor your heart in that love, for it has the power to turn death into life and to banish every evil.
So this afternoon I would invite you, first of all, to pray for this gift to grow within you, and for the grace to become messengers of hope. There are so many people around us who experience deep anxiety and even despair. Jesus lifts these clouds, if we allow him to.
I would also like to share with you a few thoughts about some of the obstacles which you may encounter on our journey of hope. All of you want a better future, employment, health and prosperity. This is good. You want to share your gifts, your aspirations and your enthusiasm with others, for the good of the nation and of the Church. This too is very good. But when you see poverty, when you experience lack of opportunity, when you experience failure in your lives, sometimes a feeling of despair can grow. You can be tempted to lose hope.
Have you ever seen a little child who stops in front of a dirty puddle on the path ahead of him? A puddle he cannot leap over or go around? He may try but then he stumbles and gets soaked. Then, after many attempts, he calls out to his father, who takes his hand and swings him over to the other side. We are like that child. Life presents us with many dirty puddles. But we don’t have to overcome all those problems and hurdles on our own. God is there to take our hand, if only we call on him.
What I am saying is that all of us have to be like that little child, even the Pope! For it is only when we are small and humble that we are not afraid to call out to our Father. If you have experienced his help, you know what I am speaking about. We need to learn to put our hope in him, knowing that he is always there for us. He gives us confidence and courage. But – and this is important – it would be wrong not to share this beautiful experience with others. It would be wrong for us not to become messengers of hope for others.
There is one particular puddle which can be frightening to young people who want to grow in their friendship with Christ. It is the fear of failing in our commitment to love, and above all, failing in that great and lofty ideal which is Christian marriage. You may be afraid of failing to be a good wife and mother, failing to be a good husband and father. If you are looking at that puddle, you may even see your weaknesses and fears reflected back to you. Please, don’t give in to them! Sometimes these fears come from the devil who does not want you to be happy. No! Call out to God, extend your hearts to him and he will lift you in his arms and show you how to love. I ask young couples in particular to trust that God wants to bless their love and their lives with his grace in the sacrament of marriage. God’s gift of love is at the heart of Christian marriage, not the costly parties which often obscure the deep spiritual meaning of this day of joyful celebration with family and friends.
Finally, one puddle that we all have to face is the fear of being different, of going against the grain in a society which puts increasing pressure on us to embrace models of gratification and consumption alien to the deepest values of African culture. Think about it! What would the Uganda martyrs say about the misuse of our modern means of communication, where young people are exposed to images and distorted views of sexuality that degrade human dignity, leading to sadness and emptiness? What would be the Uganda martyrs’ reaction to the growth of greed and corruption in our midst? Surely they would appeal to you to be model Christians, confident that your love of Christ, your fidelity to the Gospel, and your wise use of your God-given gifts can only enrich, purify and elevate the life of this country. They continue to show you the way. Do not be afraid to let the light of your faith shine in your families, your schools and your places of work. Do not be afraid to enter into dialogue humbly with others who may see things differently.
Dear young friends, when I look at your faces I am filled with hope: hope for you, hope for your country, and hope for the Church. I ask you to pray that the hope which you have received from the Holy Spirit will continue to inspire your efforts to grow in wisdom, generosity and goodness. Don’t forget to be messengers of that hope! And don’t forget that God will help you to cross whatever puddles you meet along the way!
Hope in Christ and he will enable you to find true happiness. And if you find it hard to pray, if you find it hard to hope, do not be afraid to turn to Mary, for she is our Mother, the Mother of Hope. Finally, please, do not forget to pray for me! God bless you all!