Raissa (Brazil), Leandro (Argentina), Adela (Peru) and Nelson (El Salvador) took a break from their studies for a couple of months to move to the Rome area, to collaborate at the Gen Centers for the preparations for Genfest 2018.
From 18–19 October they volunteered for the Religions for Peace meeting in Rome. Here’s their story in their own words.
“We were there to lend a hand. This meant offering people coffee or a glass of water, or to translate. For us it was a way of seeing Jesus in each person and serve them.
“Eighty leaders from various religions gathered from a number of countries and began with an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican. It was a brief but intense meeting, during which we also participated, and it profoundly struck a chord with the various leaders.
“We were told that at the end we would be able to briefly greet the pope. So each of us prepared a message.
“‘Adelante!’ he told us, which means ‘Charge forward!’
“‘Thank you for your words,’ we responded. ‘We’ll pray for you always. We would like to invite you to Genfest 2018 in Manila, in the Philippines.’ It was an exciting moment.
“Raissa and I,” says Nelson, “were busy translating for a Brazilian cardinal into Portuguese. We rejoiced when they said they hoped that young people would also attend the next meetings, which was in sync with what the pope had said about the upcoming Youth Synod in October 2018.
“For us it was really great to see that Religions for Peace is not really about the different faiths facing off, but a place to cooperate in favor of peace and saving the environment. To work for peace means to work for the planet: often wars are caused by inequality and poverty and produce ecological disasters.
“In her address, Focolare President Maria Voce announced that Genfest 2018, ‘Beyond all borders,’ would take place in Manila. ‘Ten thousand young people will gather from all latitudes, ethnicities, cultures, religions – motivated by the idea of building a united world.’
“To see these important religious leaders together seemed like we were already participating as observers at a tiny Genfest where people work for peace and unity.
“We went to carry out a service, but we didn’t expect to receive such a great gift: to greet the pope and receive, in the name of all the Gen and young people of the Focolare, such encouragement from him: ‘Adelante!’”