Pope Francis addresses the audience during a meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and other government authorities in the courtyard of the presidential palace in Bogota, Colombia, Sept. 7. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
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BOGOTA, Colombia (CNS) -- As Colombia strives to build a lasting peace, the country's elders need the encouragement and insistence of young people, who believe with all their hearts that forgiveness is possible and grudges don't have to last for decades, Pope Francis said.
The pope turned what was originally described as the "blessing of the faithful" Sept. 7 into a rallying cry to an estimated 22,000 young Colombians gathered in Plaza Bolivar outside the cathedral and cardinal's residence.
"Dream big," he told them. "Help us, your elders, not grow accustomed to pain and death."
Pope Francis not only described the youths as the "hope of Colombia and of the church," but he said that when they walk the path of empathy, understanding, encounter, forgiveness and hope, people can see in them the actions of Jesus, "the messenger of peace, the one who brings us good news."
"Do not let anyone rob you of your joy," the pope told the youths, who were singing, dancing and waving flags and homemade, oversized foam gloves.
"Keep joy alive," he told them. "It is a sign of a young heart, of a heart that has encountered the Lord."
Fueled by joy, he said, young people can spread hope and confidence in a new future for Colombia, one that finally and definitively turns the corner after more than 50 years of civil war, death and destruction.
"Do not be afraid of the future," the pope said. "Dare to dream big."