Pope Francis Consoles, Encourages, And Urges Young Americans To ‘Be Courageous’ On ’20/20’ Virtual Event

Pope Francis urged Americans to “Be Courageous” Monday during a virtual audience hosted by ABC News.

During the hour-long 20/20 event moderated by ABC’s World News Tonight anchor David Muir, Pope Francis spoke via satellite from the Vatican with students and faculty from the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago’s inner city. Also joining in the chat were congregants from Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, Texas, located near the U.S.-Mexico border. Finally, the pontiff spoke with homeless men and women and those working with the homeless in Los Angeles.

ABC News reports the three locations were selected because they are in parts of the country that Pope Francis will not be visiting next month during his historic trip to the United States.

Some of the selected speakers, which included an undocumented teenager who had lost a soccer scholarship to college and a homeless mother of two, became emotional as they shared their stories, leading Pope Francis to console the speakers with words of praise and encouragement.

“It’s true that there are difficulties on life’s path, many of them. Don’t fear the difficulties. Be prudent, be careful, but don’t fear.”

Time magazine reported that a memorable moment came when 17-year-old Valerie Herrera, a senior at the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School who said she loved to sing, told Pope Francis she had struggled with vitiligo, an autoimmune disease that causes white blotches on the face and body, that lead to unbearable bullying throughout elementary and middle school.

Herrera asked what the Holy Father expects from today’s youth and what should they aspire to be. Pope Francis surprised the youth by asking her to sing. When she hesitated, the Pope told her to “be courageous.”

After some encouragement from the audience, Herrera sang, “Junto a Ti Maria (Next to You, Maria).”

When the applause died down, Pope Francis, who hails from Argentina, answered her question.

“What I hope for from youth is for you all not to walk alone in life. Life is very difficult. It’s difficult to walk alone. You get lost. You get confused. You can find the wrong path or you can be walking around in circles, in a maze, or worst, you can stop because you get tired of walking in life. Always walk hand-in-hand with someone who loves you, someone who gives you tenderness.”

“In my country, there’s a saying, ‘it’s better to be alone than to be in bad company. That’s true, but walk accompanied… You have the strength to overcome. Don’t be scared. Don’t stop. There’s nothing worse than a young person who has retired before his or her time. I don’t know at what age people retire in the United States, but can you imagine a young person who’s 25 years old, who’s retired? Terrible. Always move forward with courage and with hope.”

According to Catholic News Agency, Pope Francis will visit the United States from September 22-27 and will include a visit to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]