By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Celebrating Palm Sunday Mass with thousands of young people, Pope Francis urged them to continue singing and shouting “hosanna” in the world, proclaiming the lordship of Jesus and following his example of outreach to the poor and suffering.
The crowd that shouted “hosanna” as Jesus entered Jerusalem included all those for whom Jesus was a source of joy, those he healed and forgave, and those he welcomed after they had been excluded from society, the pope said in his homily.
But others were irritated by Jesus and tried to silence his followers, the pope said. In the same way, people today will try to silence young people who continue to follow Jesus, because “a joyful young person is hard to manipulate.”
“There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible,” the pope said. There are “many ways to anesthetize them, to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing. There are many ways to sedate them, to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive.”
Pope Francis asked the young people “not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?”
Gabriella Zuniga, 16, and her sister Valentina Zuniga, 15, were among the thousands in St. Peter’s Square. The sisters, students at Stoneman Douglas H.S. in Parkland, Florida, had participated March 24 in the local Rome “March for Our Lives,” calling for gun control.
The Palm Sunday Mass marked the local celebration of World Youth Day and included the more than 300 young adults who, at the Vatican’s invitation, had spent a week discussing the hopes, desires and challenges facing the world’s young people and ways the Catholic Church should respond.
At the end of Mass, they formally presented their final document to the pope; it will be used, along with input from the world’s bishops’ conferences, in drafting the working document for the Synod of Bishops in October, which will focus on young people, faith and vocational discernment.
Holding five-foot tall palm branches, the young adults led the procession to the obelisk in the center of St. Peter’s Square. They were joined by others carrying olive branches and by bishops and cardinals holding “palmurelli,” which are intricately woven palm fronds.
Pope Francis said that the Palm Sunday Mass, which begins with the singing of “hosanna” and then moves to the reading of Jesus’ passion, combines “stories of joy and suffering, mistakes and successes, which are part of our daily lives as disciples.”