I love this Pope Francis more and more. He seems such a happy soul; his smile is genuine, his happiness is infectious and his ideas are very positive. Today during his first visit abroad in Brazil, he went to visit a slum area of Rio de Janeiro called Varginha. He simply went about walking among the people, though he also spent time in prayer with a very poor family in their tiny house; he was mobbed by the people who wanted to touch him and they pulled at his clothes; he also spoke to them in a way that touches the heart.

pope francis

“Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

It is wonderful to be here with you! From the start, my wish in planning this visit to Brazil was to be able to visit every district throughout the nation. I would have liked to knock on every door, to say “good morning”, to ask for a glass of cold water, to take a cafezinho, to speak as one would to family friends, to listen to each person pouring out his or her heart – parents, children, grandparents … But Brazil is so vast! It is impossible to knock on every door! So I chose to come here, to visit your community, which today stands for every district in Brazil. How wonderful it is to be welcomed with such love, generosity, and joy! One need only look at the way you have decorated the streets of the community; this is a further mark of affection, it comes from your heart, from the heart of all Brazilians in festive mood. Many thanks to each of you for this kind welcome! 

From the moment I first set foot on Brazilian soil, right up to this meeting here with you, I have been made to feel welcome. And it is important to be able to make people welcome; this is something even more beautiful than any kind of ornament or decoration. I say this because when we are generous in welcoming people and sharing something with them – some food, a place in our homes, our time – not only do we no longer remain poor: we are enriched. I am well aware that when someone needing food knocks at your door, you always find a way of sharing food; as the proverb says, one can always “add more water to the beans”! And you do so with love, demonstrating that true riches consist not in material things, but in the heart!”

For me, it is so refreshing to hear these ideas – and – moving away from Brazil to ourselves, we too have the poor and marginalized around us, those with low self-esteem, those who are ill, above all the lonely and also those who can hardly make ‘ends meet’. Our food bank in Leyland is increasingly busy!

It is the young people at the World Youth event that has brought Pope Francis to South America. The atmosphere among them is ‘electric’. The young people are enthusiastic, joyful, hopeful and in solidarity with one another, though they come from all over the world.

jesus statue

 Liverpool youth at the Statue of Christ Risen from the tomb at Rio de Janeiro

At the shrine of Our Lady of Brazil, Pope Francis called for Christians to be hopeful, open to being surprised by God, and to live in joy.

About hope he said:  “Always know in your heart that God is by your side; he never abandons you! Let us never lose hope! Let us never allow it to die in our hearts! The “dragon”, evil, is present in our history, but it does not have the upper hand. The one with the upper hand is God, and God is our hope!” 

About being surprised by God he added: “Anyone who is a man or a woman of hope – the great hope which faith gives us – knows that, even in the midst of difficulties, God acts and he surprises us.

Then about life in joy: “Christians are joyful, they are never gloomy. God is at our side. We have a Mother who always intercedes for the life of her children, for us….. Christians cannot be pessimists! They do not look like someone in constant mourning. If we are truly in love with Christ and if we sense how much he loves us, our heart will “light up” with a joy that spreads to everyone around us.” 

I have asked myself if I am hopeful, open to being surprised by God and living in joy. Yes! I think there are those gifts in me, to some extent. Are they there in you?

Father Jonathan