Pope Francis focused on sporting greats, perseverance and God’s love during a meeting with the young people of Mozambique.
The pope underlined the unconditional love of God for the people of Mozambique.
“God loves you, and this is something on which all our religious traditions are agreed,” he said.
“For him, you have worth; you are not insignificant. You are important to him, for you are the work of his hands.”
The visit to Mozambique comes at the start of a weeklong trip to sub-Saharan Africa, including the island nations of Madagascar and Mauritius.
The interreligious meeting took place at the Maxaquene Pavilion. Maxaquene is a sports club based in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. An estimated 4,500 young people took part in the event.
Songs and dance performances by groups of Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Catholic youth preceded the pope’s speech.
During the meeting, Pope Francis referred to football legend Eusébio. Eusébio, widely considered to be one of the greatest footballers of all time, was born in Mozambique and starred for Portugal.
“Eusébio da Silva began his athletic career in this city. The severe economic hardships of his family and the premature death of his father did not prevent him from dreaming; his passion for football made him persevere, keep dreaming and moving forward. He managed to score seventy-seven goals for Maxaquene,” he said.
The pope developed the sports theme in referencing Maria Mutola, the 800m athlete from Mozambique who was unable to win gold during her first three Olympic games.
“Then, on her fourth attempt, this 800 metre athlete won the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics,” he said.
“Her efforts did not make her self-absorbed; her nine world titles did not let her forget her people, her roots: she continued to look out for the needy children of Mozambique.”
Pope Francis advised the youth of Mozambique to listen to their elders.
“Sometimes we older people put you in difficulty, we frighten you. We can try to make you act, speak and live the same way we do. You will have to find your own way, but by listening to and appreciating those who have gone before you,” he said.
The pope made reference to two cyclones, both of which occurred earlier this year, and the resulting suffering experienced in Mozambique.
Using one of his signature quotes, he urged the young people “to protect our common home.”
“Here you have a beautiful dream to cultivate together, as a family, a great challenge that can keep you united,” he said.
“I am convinced that you can be the agents of this much-needed change: protecting our common home, a home that belongs to all and is meant for all,” he added.
Drawing heavily from Christus Vivit, his letter to young people, Pope Francis encouraged the young people to put their trust in God’s love.
“This love of God is simple, silent and discreet: it does not overpower us or force itself on us; it is not strident or flashy,” he said.
“The love of the Lord has more to do with raising up than knocking down, with reconciling than forbidding, with offering new changes than condemning, with the future than the past.”
The pope’s visit to Mozambique will end on September 6 when he heads to Madagascar.
Picture: Young people cheer as Pope Francis leads an interreligious meeting with young people at the Maxaquene Pavilion in Maputo, Mozambique on September 5 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)