VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis urged young Brazilian Catholics to follow the example of Mary by courageously setting out to improve their society with love for the poor and a commitment to make real connections with other people.

Writing to young people concluding a three-year program of faith formation and social commitment, the pope asked them to “transform the ‘networks’ of your life — networks of friends, social networks, material and virtual networks — realities that are often divided, into something more meaningful: becoming a community, mission communities ‘on the move,’ communities that are the light and leaven of a more just and fraternal society.”

The message, addressed to the young people who were gathered at the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida July 29-30 for the 300th anniversary of the discovering of the Marian image, was released at the Vatican Aug. 1.


“The Virgin Mary is a precious example for the youth and an aid in the journey along the road of life,” the pope said. Coming to that realization does not require great reflection, but just some time contemplating the image of Our Lady of Aparecida, which he said he did in 2007 during the Latin American bishops’ meeting there and again in 2013 when he was in Brazil for World Youth Day.

“I was able to discover there in the tender and maternal gaze of the dark-skinned virgin and in the eyes of the simple people who contemplated her, the secret of the hope that moves the Brazilian people to face the challenges of each day with faith and courage,” he said. “I was also able to contemplate the revolutionary strength of a loving mother who moves the hearts of her children to go out of themselves with great missionary impetus,” as the young pilgrims just did.

“Amid the uncertainties and insecurities of daily life, amid the precariousness that situations of injustice create around you,” he told the youths, “be certain of this: Mary is a sign of hope that will encourage you with a great missionary impulse. She knows the challenges in which you live. With her maternal attention and accompaniment, you will realize that you are not alone.”

Strengthened in solid communities, “do not be afraid to risk and commit yourself to building a new society, permeating the social, political, economic and university environments with the force of the Gospel,” the pope said. “Do not be afraid to fight corruption and do not be seduced by it!”

Pope Francis told the young people he was certain that by “trusting in the Lord, whose presence is a source of life in abundance, and under the mantle of Mary, you can rediscover the creativity and strength to be protagonists of a culture of alliance and thus generate new patterns that will guide the life of Brazil.”