Blog interview by Annie Romero from Caritas Venezuela
Is this the first time you’ve attended World Youth Day? If you’ve already been, where was it and what was it like?
I took part in the World Youth Day held in Rio de Janeiro in 2013. It was an experience of faith and fraternity, of sharing faith with many young Catholics who like me have a life of prayer and service to God. I knew about the space created by young people from Caritas in Brazil.
What does having a Pope from Latin America at World Youth Day mean to you?
As a Venezuelan, I’m pleased that the Pope is Latin American. We are the continent of hope and joy. He’s familiar with the Latin American reality, has a profound knowledge of social thought, comes up with answers to the challenges faced by today’s young people, and proclaims and condemns with great charisma via simple and familiar strategies.
How does Pope Francis inspire you?
He inspires love, humility and devotion. He’s a kind-hearted, compassionate man, who demonstrates his closeness to those who are suffering. When Pope Francis speaks to Caritas he invites us to be witnesses to the love of the Church, telling us: “A Church without charity does not exist. Caritas is an essential part of the Church that institutionalizes love in the Church”. These words echo in my mind and in my daily service.
Does the current crisis in Venezuela have repercussions on young people? How is Caritas helping during this crisis? How can young people play an important role in your country and, in general, help improve the world for everyone?
Undoubtedly, we are experiencing an economic, political and social crisis in Venezuela at the moment. Young people are undergoing violence, dropping out of school, poverty, emigration and lack of values. These are realities that young people in Venezuela and around the world cannot escape from.
Caritas accompanies the most vulnerable, promotes alliances with civil society and encourages advocacy, with a view to changing human beings, individually and collectively, in order to achieve new public policies that can inspire good actions.
We young people are full of hope, because we believe in the God of mercy. Venezuela is a land of grace, and we have faith that, as a country, we will recover. Through values, accompaniment, union and reconciliation. We cannot lose the hope of having a better country and a better world.
You will speak at the World Youth Day’s Caritas event, which will be attended by Cardinal Tagle, the president of Caritas Internationalis. Which aspects of your experience with Caritas will you want to share with the young people?
Pope Francis tells us: “Caritas is the caress of the Church to its people, the caress of the Mother Church to her children, her tenderness and closeness.” I’ve been serving the poorest and those most in need for six years. It’s extremely satisfying to help others and devote oneself completely, caring about them, and being sensitive to their spiritual and material needs. I say to young people around the world that helping the needy makes us more free. Young people should participate in social action. It is vital that rather than just staying inside the Church, they should offer their service beyond it. As a young person I invite them to be volunteers in good faith. Young hands and restless hearts are always needed to build a new society.
What expectations do you have for your visit to World Youth Day?
First of all, I’m grateful to God and the Virgin Mary for the opportunity they’ve given me to take part in this World Youth Day in Krakow, and to the Caritas Internationalis and Caritas Venezuela family for making this wish come true, and for being able to address so many young people whose hearts, like mine, beat for social causes.
The motto that defines us at World Youth Day, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy”, makes us reflect on how great and kind-hearted God is towards his children. I’m going to celebrate with Pope Francis in high spirits, in the land of our beloved Pope John Paul II, to ask on behalf of the young people of Venezuela and the Latin America and Caribbean region that the Beatitudes be embodied in our lives.
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President: Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle
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