Pope Francis holds up Argentina's flag as he greets a crowd of World Youth Day pilgrims outside the cathedral in Rio de Janeiro July 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis holds up Argentina's flag as he greets a crowd of World Youth Day pilgrims outside the cathedral in Rio de Janeiro July 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis issued a call to action, to stir things up in a country where religion seems to be falling asleep, Maria Fugazza said, nearly one month after hearing him talk to fellow native Argentines. The 22-year-old St. Thomas the Apostle parishioner counted herself among the 4,000 youth granted ticketed admission when the pope spoke in a Rio de Janeiro cathedral July 25.

Her brother and his friend came too. They were all in Buenos Aires visiting family this summer where they connected with an area parish to travel to Rio for World Youth Day festivities. The sibling duo both mentioned a feeling of unity across the main events.

“There was also the theme present in all of Pope Francis’ actions: protect the weak, the meek, and the humble,” Fugazza said. “He called the youth not only to make some noise and change the world, but to also remember the old with their wisdom.”

Both segments of the world’s population are the ones most full of promise for peoples, Pope Francis told the young people from Argentina. He spoke about a sort of hidden and cultural euthanasia regarding the elderly who are often not taken care of nor allowed to speak or act. He also expressed concern about the percentage of young people with no experience of the dignity gained through work.

“As for the young, they must emerge, they must assert themselves. The young must go out to fight for values, to fight for these values,” Pope Francis said.

Read FULL TEXT of the Holy Father's address to the young people of Argentina

Matias Fugazza waited seven hours in line with his sister and friend in order to hear Pope Francis inside the cathedral. The 17-year-old found the wait worthwhile and helpful to understanding the pontiff’s message inside. Every action and feeling experienced during World Youth Day — suffering through the rain for the sake of the Church, being tired an hungry — shouldn’t stop when they returned home, Matias said.

In fact, Matias described such hardships as enjoyable because fellow Argentinean Catholics he traveled with “were most likely just as uncomfortable, yet never stopped being happy, not once. Being in that situation gave me a kind of hope that was unique. It was a hope that I felt, and was given by everyone else.”

His mom and dad got teary eyed recently when Matias, who is not often very outspoken, relayed his experience of waking up on Copacabana beach following the vigil with Pope Francis. Mass hadn’t started yet, but Matias was already surrounded by millions of Catholics from across the globe.

“He could not explain it, but was the happiest he had ever felt in his life,” Silvina, his mother, told The Catholic Sun.

She said both of her kids came back sick from being out in the rain, hungry and exhausted, “but absolutely elated, full of the joy that being a Catholic means for them after this profound experience.”

Matias said Pope Francis’ presence was felt everywhere and youth rejoiced knowing that he was human just like them. The pope inspired him to carry out mundane things with more humility and purpose.

“He taught me that I had to inspire that same feeling of joy in the simple things that comes from our faith with everyone around me. That was true all the time, not just on special occasions,” Matias said.

Fr. Matt Lowry, chaplain at Holy Trinity Newman Center in Flagstaff, returned with his small group of pilgrims renewed as well. The young people wanting to take a picture with his group, the pope’s encouragement to “allow yourself to be surprised by God” and the group’s personal visit with Espiritu Santo parish in Brazil inspired him.

“This parish focuses on evangelization and the parish is on fire,” Fr. Lowry said, noting the 2,800 people involved in 295 different small cells of people who meet weekly to grow in faith.

Fr. Lowry also believed that World Youth Day pilgrims returned with the message that this is their Church and the Church is counting on them to rebuild it as St. Francis did. They merely need to put their trust in God.

Millions had that chance during eucharistic adoration. Fr. Lowry, who also serves as associate director of vocations for the diocese, pointed to hearing local Catholic musician Matt Maher lead music during eucharistic adoration in front of Pope Francis as another highlight.