Dearest young people! The long-awaited day has arrived: the inauguration of the 28th World Youth Day. Welcome to Rio de Janeiro, welcome to this Brazilian city of extraordinary beauty, dominated by the statue of the Christ the Redeemer Shrine of Corcovado. In the coming days this city will be the capital of Catholic youth gathered here from the remotest corners of the planet ... After a long and challenging journey of preparation in your parishes and in your communities, you have come here -- a young Church, full of the joy of faith and missionary zeal! The words the Psalmist encourage us: "This is the day the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Ps 118.24). Dear young people, on behalf of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Vatican department to which the Holy Father has entrusted the organization of the World Youth Day, I give you a friendly welcome and I extend an affectionate greeting. I also wish to express gratitude to your bishops, priests, men and women religious, and lay people who have accompanied and guided you on the itinerary of spiritual preparation in view of this great adventure of faith that we will live together here in Rio in these days. The Lord has in store for each of us so many surprises! For all of you, these will be unforgettable days of important discoveries, days of decisive moments for your life! WYD Rio is a special one: after 26 years the World Youth Day back in Latin America, a young continent, a continent of hope. It is worth remembering the words of Blessed John Paul II addressed to young people during World Youth Day in Buenos Aires in 1987: "I want to repeat once again -- as I told you in the first day of my pontificate -- 'you are the hope of the Pope,' 'you are the hope of the Church' ... Yes -- the Pope said -- and wishes to repeat to you: "Latin America: be yourself! In your faithfulness to Christ, resist those who wish to stifle your vocation of hope.'" This World Youth Day in Rio is special because, commissioned and prepared by Pope Benedict XVI, it will be presided over by Pope Francis, the first Latin American Pope ... Truly God's ways are inscrutable! This World Youth Day takes place at the foot of the statue of Christ the Redeemer of Corcovado. He is the true protagonist of this event! His heart beats infinite love for each of you and His open arms are ready to welcome all of you! During this World Youth Day, let yourself be embraced by Christ! Entrusted to Him all your desires, your plans for the future, your profound joys; entrust to Him even the most difficult choices you are called to make, your fears and the concern that inhabit your young hearts! Youth is in itself an enormous wealth: you possess it and must make it bear fruit! Faithful to Christ! Those who choose Christ, we lose nothing, absolutely nothing, but -- on the contrary -- earn everything and find true happiness and fullness of life! The guiding theme of this World Youth Day -- as you know -- is the missionary mandate which Christ entrusted to his Church: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (cf. Mt 28:19). This mission is the raison d'être of the Church and of every Christian! We are sent to be the salt of the earth and light of the world! During this World Youth Day, Christ calls us to move beyond ourselves -- as is often said by Papa Francesco -- he asks us to abandon our comfortable life, to break down the walls of our selfishness, to boldly go to the geographical and existential "peripheries" of the world, bringing Christ and his Gospel. In these days we make our own the words of Saint Paul: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16), and we cry out to all the world -- as the Holy Father asks us -- "it is good to follow Jesus ... good is the message of Jesus, it is good to go out of ourselves, to the peripheries of the world and of the existence bring Jesus!" Christ needs you, young people! He needs your youthful faith, full of joy and missionary enthusiasm! Christ is counting on each of you! Dear young pope from all the world! WYD Rio has begun! Again I say to all of you: welcome to Rio de Janeiro!