Rio de Janeiro (CNN)–Pope Francis closed out World Youth Day with a final Mass before a giant crowd on Copacabana beach of millions.
"Go, do not be afraid, and serve," the Pope told the crowd Sunday.
Catholic pilgrims from around the world traveled to Brazil for the
weeklong celebration and a chance to see the pontiff, whose visit was a
shot in the arm for a church that has seen its share of scandal and
Massive crowds followed Francis at every stop on the trip. Organizers
and local officials said 1.5 million people came out for the Way of the
Cross observance on Friday. The mayor's office in Rio said final
estimates for a prayer vigil on Saturday could reach up to 3 million. On
Sunday, the Vatican citing civil authorizes put the crowd for the final
Mass over 3 million.
Helicopter shots showed crowds that
stretched shoulder to shoulder for two miles the beach and the streets,
where pilgrims had camped out overnight as part of the prayer vigil.
As the "popemobile" made its way down Avenue Atlantica for a final
time on this trip, the military lined both sides of the street along
with volunteers keeping the crowds further back from Pope. Security
guards continued to bring infants to the pope to bless and even began
lifting disabled persons in wheelchairs up to for a blessing.
During his homily the Pope admonished the crowd to go and share their
faith, "the experience of this encounter must not remain locked up in
your life or in the small group of your parish, your movement, or your
"Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life,
to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most
indifferent," he said.
The pope said the message applied all the more to the young people
from the Latin America. In Brazil over the past three decades the
Catholic Church has slipped significantly, dropping from 90% to 65% of
the population who identified as Catholic according to the national
Pope Francis has been dubbed the "slum pope" for his consistent focus
on the poor and again during the final message to those gathered.
"Evangelizing means bearing personal witness to the love of God, it is
overcoming our selfishness, it is serving by bending down to wash the
feet of our brethren, as Jesus did."
That message he said, "is bringing God's power to pluck up and break
down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers of
selfishness, intolerance and hatred, so as to build a new world."
It would be nice if these words moved people to action, to live selflessly. I'm not so sure about the other stuff, the presence or absence of a god is irrelevant to life on Earth. If only religion was actually useful. If only it was a force for good. In some lives, it is, but on the most part it has been one of the greatest causes for division and cruelty in history as well as in current times. Religion has no place in this world - it causes far more harm than good.
What is religion other than the instilling of a false hope and blind faith in some entity that will apparently fix our lives if only we love him/her/it. There are many good messages in religions - unfortunately they are generally ignored by followers, the aggressive messages seem to be more popular. What if the people who put so much energy and thought into their religion and/or God were to, instead put their energy and thoughts toward practically making the world a more pleasant place to live in? That would make a difference.
Maybe if people were less concerned with the afterlife and more concerned about this life here and now the world wouldn't be quite so unpleasant. Maybe not. Maybe it is in our nature, with or without God and religion, to be complete douchebags. Or maybe not. What I know for sure is that there have been people who have changed what they believed to be their nature, actively choosing to be and live in a different way. Sure, religion has helped people in different situations. Now what is required from us is to take what is good from the different religions and leave the rest. There is no need to live in fear of some angry sky demon's wrath. There is no need for teachings about violence. There is nothing good about promoting inequality in any form. We don't have to live according to these principles.
So, coming back to the words of the pope. will they make any difference on a global scale? Doubtful. Will they stop murder, rape, animal abuse, neglect, abandonment, exploitation? No. These things are as old as religion. None of the religions are saying anything that hasn't been said a thousand time before - they had little effect in the past, why would they change anything now?