By Justin McLellan, Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Catholic Church is not a “club” for the elderly; it needs the participation of young people to keep it alive and ensure it does not “grow old,” Pope Francis said.
In a video message released July 27 to present his prayer intention for the month of August, “For World Youth Day,” the pope responded to questions from young people around the world in the buildup to WYD 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal, which was scheduled to begin Aug. 1.
One young woman told Pope Francis that she only sees older people at her church, and asked him if the church has become something only for older people.
“The church is not a club for the elderly, nor is it a youth club,” the pope responded. “If it becomes something for old people it is going to die.”
Citing St. John Paul II, the pope said that “if you live with young people, you will also become young, and the church needs young people to not grow old.”
Another young woman asked the pope about the meaning of the theme for this year’s World Youth Day taken from St. Luke’s Gospel: “Mary arose and went with haste.”
“When Mary knows she will be the mother of God she doesn’t stay there to take a selfie or show off, the first thing she does is set out on a journey in haste to serve and help,” he explained. “You must learn from her to set out on the journey to help others.”
Responding to another young person, the pope said he hopes to see at World Youth Day a “seed for the world’s future, a world where love is at the center, where we can sense that we are sisters and brothers.”
“We are at war; we need something else. A world that is not afraid of bearing witness to the Gospel. A joyful world — because if we Christians have no joy, we are not credible, no one will believe us,” he said.
The pope is scheduled to travel to Portugal Aug. 2-6 to participate in World Youth Day and visit the Marian shrine at Fátima. The church in Portugal has estimated that 1 million young people will participate in the world day events in Lisbon.