World at war needs signs of brotherhood, friendship, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In a world traumatized by war, young
people gathered for World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, gave strong signs of
hope and brotherhood, Pope Francis said.

World Youth Day was a “prophetic sign for Poland and
Europe” and took on a “global dimension” in a world threatened
by a war fought in pieces, the pope said Aug. 3 at his weekly general audience.

“Precisely in this world at war, we need brotherhood, we
need closeness, we need dialogue, and we need friendship. And this is the sign
of hope: when there is brotherhood,” he said.

The pope entered the Paul VI audience hall greeted by
thousands of pilgrims reaching out to him, asking him to bless their religious
articles, kiss their babies or receive their gifts. But one gift stopped the pope in his tracks: a
pope doll.

Pope Francis pointed
to the doll and to himself, not completely convinced of the similarity, and
then laughed, thanking the pilgrim for her present.

Before taking his
place on the stage, the pope greeted Rabbi Alejandro Avruj, an old friend from
Argentina seated in the front row. Also present were bishops and pilgrims from Panama, the country Pope Francis
announced would host World Youth Day 2019.

In addition, a group of 65 young
refugees from Eritrea and Syria came to see the pope. According to the Vatican,
the children are from the Center
for Asylum Seekers at Castelnuovo di Porto, about 15 miles north of Rome. The
pope greeted them and posed for a group photo after the audience.

In his main audience talk, Pope Francis reflected on his visit
to Krakow July 27-31 to join hundreds of thousands of young people from across
the globe who met to celebrate their faith and who answered the call to
“go forth together,
to build bridges of brotherhood,” he said.

“They also came with their wounds, with their questions
but, above all, with the joy of meeting each other,” the pope said.

Despite language barriers, he said, the youths were able to understand
each other, creating a “mosaic of brotherhood” that is
“emblematic of World Youth Day.”

Recalling his visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death
camp, the pope said the great silence there “was more eloquent than any
spoken word.”

“In that silence I heard, I felt the presence of all the
souls that have passed there; I felt the compassion, the mercy of God that
several holy souls brought there to that great abyss,” Pope Francis said.
“In that great silence, I prayed for all the victims of violence and

At Auschwitz, he said, he learned the “value of
memory” not only as a remembrance of past tragedies, but also as a warning and call to
responsibility today “so that the seed of hate and violence does not take
root in the furrows of history.”

“Looking at that cruelty, at that concentration camp, I
immediately thought of today’s cruelty, which is very similar. Not as
concentrated as in that place, but around the world. This world that is sick
with cruelty, pain, war, hate and sadness. And for this I ask you to pray so
that the Lord may give us peace,” he said.

Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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