Crowds in Copacabana for the 2013 Holy Mass for WYD in Rio de Janeiro. Wikimedia Commons

His Mission is My Heart

The Holy Father “came to take care of my happiness.”Julián de la Morena, responsibile for CL in Latin America, talks about his experience at the World Youth Day in Rio

Alessandra Stoppa

Many who were present those days on the waterfront of Copacabana are still today moved when they recall the silence: there were 3 million young people crowded together, and yet the only sound was that of the sea and the helicopters overhead. “They were days of listening and silence.” This is the first thing that Fr. Julián de la Morena says as well. Responsible for CL in Latin America, he accompanied the journey of 600 young people to the World Youth Day. “For me, to guide them was to serve them, to experience everything with them and like them.” He was with them from morning to night, even spending his nights with them in a sleeping bag in a warehouse at the port of Rio de Janeiro.

How would you describe the experience of the people there?
I had the experience that faith is a fact, a presence that helps women and men look at reality in a new way and generates a people that journeys. We spent the whole day walking behind a very clear witness.

What was your personal experience of those days?
Some time before, at Mass, I noted a young man whose face was radiant. At the end, I rushed out to stop him, because his eyes were the most beautiful I had seen that day. He did not realize–nobody looks at their own eyes!–but he told me that he had just returned from a very beautiful encounter with the Movement. Then later I saw him again and his eyes were no longer shining. “I have to give faith another chance,” he told me. So I invited him to the World Youth Day. “You found that your eyes shine when something happens. We can go to Rio with this desire for a fact to happen again, a grace that is not ours.” Well, for me, it was very beautiful.

Because I lived those days bearing in my heart the prayer of this young man and of all those who, like me, need a fact that gives a new light to their gaze.

What struck you most?
The Pope made me look right away at the one interesting treasure of life: “I have neither silver nor gold, only Christ.” But the thing that struck me most was when he asked permission to live the week with us: “Let me knock gently at the door of your heart.” He said these words to me! In those days, in which everything was organized, the most important thing was something unforeseen: a man who made this proposal to me. I also believe that his talk at the Episcopal Conference of Latin America was one of the most decisive. He put back in the center the document of Aparecida of 2007, indicating the step to take. From an old world of pastoral and sociological reflections, to a new conception: the origin of the judgment, the point of departure of the gaze, is Christ. He asks us to look at reality as Christ does.

What was changed by the World Youth Day?
The first revolution was that in Rio, 100,000 people were hosted by families. The people opened their own homes to strangers. The “culture of encounter” of which the Pope spoke is already a reality.

What has changed in you?
Before departing, I asked Fr. Julián Carrón for help, so that those days would not be just a party. The only thing he said was, “A fundamental inquiry is needed: what is the relationship between happiness and the Pope?” Such a straight-to-the-heart question cannot be evaded. I understood better the mission Christ gave to Peter, after he betrayed Him: to take care of the heart of all people. The Pope came to me only to obey this desire of Christ: to take care of the happiness of my heart. I can be unafraid of my desire, because it offers me a road. Francis raised many questions in everyone, but they are not questions that leave a person insecure. They give certainty, the chance for a journey, which is in belonging to the Church, a place that educates the heart.