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Pope Francis flew back to Rome from Rio last weekend after the recent successful World Youth Days, a pilgrimage for young Catholics which dates back to 1984. It was started by John Paul II.

I knew a youth group leader who attended the 1993 session in Denver. She said that, although they were tiring, it was a powerful time spiritually. Her group appreciated attending, despite the crowds, queues and campsite conditions. Seeing John Paul II was important to them, especially participating in the Mass he said.

This year’s theme was taken from the New Testament verse Matthew 28:19: Go and Make Disciples of All Nations. Pope Francis said he left with ‘a heart full of many happy memories’.

Not surprisingly, many young Catholics look forward to participating in one of these events if they can. Le Monde interviewed several of this year’s attendees which numbered in the hundreds of thousands with more attending certain events between July 23 and 28.

One young Uruguayan, Frederica, told the journalist:

It’s very difficult being Catholic today. Spiritual life is in the process of dying in our society. Many in my family and among my friends say that it is boring or stupid to believe in God. I have a hard time talking [to them] about my values, founded on respect for others and myself. 

She also deplored the

violence in society today.

However, others experienced their Catholicism differently. A group from Nantes told Le Monde that they were ‘proud’ to be

happy, open and engaged Catholics.

One young woman added:

They made fun of me in school but, now, people are more curious.

Generally speaking, these pilgrims are prayerful and devout, valuing marriage, children and honest work.

Meanwhile, the Pope has been in place for a few months now. His anti-poverty messages are well-received, judging by the fact that his Twitter subscribers now outnumber those of the Dalai Lama’s. He keeps the traditionalists happy by saying a private Mass daily at 7 a.m. Yet, it was during one of these Masses that he expressed his wish to ‘change the structures’ of the Church. (For the moment, however, that does not include women’s ordination.)

On the flight back to Rome from Rio, he said that he disapproved of sexual lobbying groups but added:

If a person is gay and seeks the Lord in good faith, who am I to judge?

I have yet to see a Vatican ID card on which the word ‘gay’ is written … The catechism of the Catholic Church says that we mustn’t marginalise people who should be integrated into society.

Yes, certainly.

However, there is a fine line between that and ‘celebrating’ sexual orientation with associated sin. It is a subject which worries orthodox Protestants as they see their relativist churchmen making excuses for what the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) — and Christ — condemn.

More from a Protestant viewpoint tomorrow.

By the way, the French site l’Internaute had a survey asking whether the Pope would be able to ‘change the discourse on homosexuality in the Catholic Church’. As I write this post at the end of July, 45.9% said no, 42.5% said yes and 11.7% were undecided.

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