Your Eminence. Dear Cardinal Farrell, Father Alexandre, priests present here, friends of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life, friends from different dicasteries, associations, movements and new communities, friends of Centro San Lorenzo and dear young people.
In July 1980, St. John Paul II visited my city, Fortaleza in Brazil. On that occasion, the Archbishop at that time asked me to give, at the moment of the offertory, a gift to the Pope, in the name of all the young people of the city. I asked myself this question: “But what can a young person of 20 years give to the Pope?” In prayer, the answer and inspiration of the Lord was clear: as a young man, I was joined by His Love, which changed my life. It was time to “give free what I had received for free”.
Here is my gift to Jesus and to the Church: offer life and youth to evangelize young people, especially those who are farthest away from Christ and the Church. From this decisive experience – the offering of life at the feet of Peter – a ‘pizzeria to evangelize’ was born, an Evangelization Center. A welcoming place where young people, with creativity and audacity, evangelized other young people. Honestly: I had no idea where God was taking us.
It is noteworthy that in 1983, the same Pope, here in Rome, wanted to give a gift to the youth of the whole world: An International Youth Center at this Church of San Lorenzo, a few steps from his home. It is “a welcoming place”, sign of the fatherhood of the Holy Father and of the motherhood of the Church for the young. Since our Community has been present in Rome, always in communion with the Community of the Emmanuel and other ecclesial expressions, we have seen this Center as a special reference point for evangelization. Here we have seen the birth of numerous vocations to the missionary life, priestly life, marriage and much more- so many graces in the life of young people over the years!
We could not imagine that at the dawn of the historic Synod dedicated to the Youth, we would be called to offer this precious service to the Church: to animate the “San Lorenzo” Youth Center. Here, very close to Peter, at the foot of the Cross, in the footsteps of the Most Holy Mary, welcoming, loving and evangelizing the young, we return to the origins of our Charism and our mission as a Shalom Community. In this “Evangelization Center”, we want to make available our Charism, for the benefit of an ever-renewed missionary creativity with young people and for young people. Let the most distant, both geographically and spiritually, experience that they can find their home here in the heart of the Church.
Thank you, Eminence, thank you all, friends, for your trust. We are counting on your prayers so that we can carry forward this new mission and this new stage in the San Lorenzo Center with humility and fidelity to the project of God. Here we are! At the foot of the Cross, in profound communion with the Holy Father, our beloved Pope Francis, in continuous intercession for the Synod of Bishops and the “young people”; united in Santa Teresina and Saint John Paul II, under the gaze of Mary, we want to renew the offer of our life for the Church, for young people and for humanity.