Vatican City, 28 February 2014 (VIS) – This morning the Holy Father received in audience the Commission for Latin America, which today concluded its plenary session. Pope Francis emphasised that the Commission has dedicated its work during these days to the millions of young people in Latin America and the Caribbean “who live in conditions of 'educational emergency' and for whom it is necessary to pose the fundamental question of the 'traditio' of faith and how the Church wishes to imitate Jesus in His approach to the young”.

“It is worth following the example Jesus Christ gives us”, he repeated, “an example of commitment, of service, of selfless love, of the struggle for justice and truth. The Holy Mother Church is convinced that the best teacher for the young is Jesus Christ. She wishes to instil in them these same sentiments, showing them how beautiful it is to live as He did, banishing selfishness and allowing oneself to be drawn by the beauty of goodness. He who truly knows Jesus does not stay on the couch, but rather takes on His style of life, becoming a missionary disciple of His Gospel, bearing enthusiastic witness to faith, and sparing no sacrifice”.

The Pope recalled Jesus' encounter with the rich youth, and emphasised three aspects. First, welcome: Jesus' first gesture, and also ours, it precedes every form of instruction or apostolic mission. “Be close to the young in every area of life: in school, family, work. … Many young people experience serious problems. They face difficulties in school, unemployment, loneliness, the bitterness of disunited families. These are difficult moments, in which they experience frustration and helplessness; they become vulnerable to drug abuse, sex without love, violence ... we must not abandon the young, or leave them at the roadside; they have a great need to feel valued in their dignity, surrounded by affection, and understood”.

Secondly, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of frank and cordial dialogue, just as Jesus listened to the youth's worries and helped to clear them up. “Jesus listened, without condemning; he was without prejudice, he did not speak about the usual things. In the same way, the young want to feel at home in Church. Not only must the Church open her doors to them; she must actively seek them”.

Finally, the Pontiff underlined the invitation that Jesus makes to the youth to follow him, and emphasised the need for the young to hear this invitation. They must hear that Christ is not a character in a novel, but a living person, who wants to share their irrepressible desire for life, commitment, and dedication. If we content ourselves with offering them mere human comfort, we let them down. It is important to offer them the best we have: Jesus Christ, His Gospel, and with Him, a new horizon, which enables them to face life with coherence, honesty and high-mindedness. They see the evils of the world and do not keep quiet, they place their finger on the wound and ask for a better world, admitting no substitutes. They want to be in control of their present and builders of a future in which there is no place for lies, corruption and the lack of solidarity. … The Church in Latin America must not squander the treasure of youth”.

Before concluding, the Pope urged the Commission to face this challenge with resolve. “The young are waiting for us. We must not let them down”.