Pope ends South America trip urging youths to 'make a mess'

Sun Jul 12, 2015 7:51pm EDT
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By Philip Pullella and Mariel Cristaldo

ASUNCION (Reuters) - Pope Francis, drawing to a close his three-country tour of South America, on Sunday urged tens of thousands of youths in Paraguay to look after their less fortunate peers and fight for a dignified life filled with hope and strength.

"They wrote a speech for me to give you. But speeches are boring," the Argentine pontiff said to loud cheers. "Make a mess, but then also help to tidy it up. A mess which gives us a free heart, a mess which gives us solidarity, a mess which gives us hope."

It was not the first time Francis has called on young people to shake things up, repeating a mantra he voiced in Brazil in 2013 when he urged youngsters to demand a more outward-looking Catholic Church.

"We don't want young weaklings. We do not want young people who tire quickly, who live life worn out with faces of boredom. We want youths with hope and strength," Francis told the rally, as night fell over the banks of the Paraguay River outside the capital Asuncion.

Earlier on Sunday the pope heard harrowing tales of life in a flood-prone shantytown and appealed to the slum dwellers, many of whom had been forced from their farms and now squat on city land, to stay united in their struggle for better living and working conditions.

The Argentine pontiff has made defending the poor a major theme of his "homecoming" trip, which also took him to Ecuador and Bolivia, ranked among Latin America's poorest countries.

On Saturday night, he appealed to world leaders and business executives to seek a new economic model to help the destitute.

In Banado Norte, murals adorned the walls of houses made of corrugated metal, wood and cement blocks. One of them read: "Yes to life, no to drugs, fight for change."   Continued...

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to visit the Banado Norte neighborhood in Asuncion, Paraguay, July 12, 2015.   REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi