As WYD Panama 2019 reached its conclusion, Pope Francis had one final engagement - a special meeting at Rommel Fernandez Stadium with around 22,200 volunteers who made this World Youth Day a great success. Although, as he so often does, he digressed from his prepared text, we offer you here the prepared version of his address:Dear Volunteers, Before we conclude the celebration of World Youth Day, I wanted to meet all of you and to thank every one of you for the service you rendered during these days and in the months preceding WYD. Thanks to Bartosz, Stella Maris del Carmen and Maria Margarida for sharing their personal experiences. How important it is to listen to them and to appreciate the fellowship that comes about when we come together to serve others. We experience how faith takes on a completely new flavour and force: it becomes more alive, dynamic and real. We experience a different kind of joy from having had the opportunity to work side by side with others in achieving a shared dream. I know that all of you have experienced this. Now you know how our hearts beat faster when we have a mission, not because someone told you this, but because you experienced it for yourselves. You experienced in your own life that “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). You also had to experience some difficult moments that called for additional sacrifice. As you told us, Bartosz, we also come to experience our own weaknesses. The good thing is that you did not let those weaknesses get in the way of your service, or bother you too much. You experienced them in serving others, yes; in trying to understand and help other volunteers and pilgrims, yes; but you were determined not to let this stop you or paralyze you, you went ahead. That is the beauty of knowing that we are sent, the joy of knowing that, in spite of every difficulty, we have a mission to carry out. Not to let our limitations, our weaknesses and even our sins hold us back and stop us from living the mission, because God invites us to do what we can and ask for what we cannot, in the knowledge that his love is taking hold of us and transforming us progressively (cf. Gaudete et Exsultate, 49-50). Put service and mission first, and you will see that everything else will follow. Thank you all, because in these days you have been attentive to even the smallest details, however ordinary and apparently insignificant, like offering someone a glass of water. Yet you have also been concerned with the larger things that called for careful planning. You prepared every detail with joy, creativity and commitment, and with much prayer. For when we pray about things, we feel them more profoundly. Prayer gives force and vitality to everything we do. In praying, we discover that we are part of a family larger than what we can see or imagine. In praying, we open everything we do to the Church that supports and accompanies us from heaven, to the saints who have shown us the way, but above all, we open it all to God. You have dedicated your time, and your energy and resources, to dreaming and putting together this meeting. You could have easily chosen to do other things, but you wanted to be involved. To give your best to making possible the miracle of the multiplication not only of loaves but also of hope. Here, once again, you have shown that it is possible to set aside your own interests in order to help others. As you did, Stella Maris, when you saved up to attend the WYD in Krakow, but decided not to go, so that you could look after your three grandparents. You gave up doing something you wanted to do and had dreamed about, in order to help and accompany your family, to honour your roots. But the Lord, unbeknownst to you, was preparing a gift for you; he brought the WYD to your own country. Like Stella Maris, many of you also made all sorts of sacrifices. You had to defer your dreams to care for your land, your roots. The Lord always blesses that, and he can never be outdone in generosity. Every time we forego something that we like for the good of others and especially those most in need, or our roots as in the case of our grandparents and the elderly, the Lord pays it back a hundredfold. For when it comes to generosity, no one can beat him; when it comes to love, no one can outdo him. Friends, give and it will be given to you, and you will experience how the Lord “puts into your lap good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over” (Lk 6:38). You have had a more lively and real experience of faith; you have experienced the strength born of prayer and a new and different kind of joy, the fruit of working side by side even with people you did not know. Now is the moment when you are sent forth: go out and tell, go out and bear witness, go out and spread the word about everything you have seen and heard. Dear friends, let everyone know about what happened during these days. Not with lots of words but rather, as you did here, with simple and ordinary gestures, those that transform and renew each hour of the day. Let us ask the Lord for his blessing. May he bless your families and communities, and all those whom you will meet and encounter in the days to come. Let us also place ourselves under the mantle of the Blessed Virgin. May Our Lady accompany you always. And, as I told you in Krakow, I do not know if I will be there for the next WYD, but Peter will surely be there to confirm you in faith. Press on, with courage and strength, and please, do not forget to pray for me. Thank you.
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