Just one day after the March For Our Lives saw more than 200,000 people march through the streets of Washington D.C. in support of more restrictive gun laws, Pope Francis kicked off Holy Week by urging young people to keep fighting and never be silenced by older generations or their parents. Though Pope Francis didn’t directly address the marches — 150,000 people also took to the streets in New York and there were rallies near the US Embassy in Rome– during his service in Vatican City, that action served as a sort of backdrop for his sermon, delivered to a young audience on the occasion of the Catholic Church’s World Day of Youth.
“There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible,” the Pope said. “Many ways to anesthetize them, to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing. There are many ways to sedate them, to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive.”
Pope Francis then beckoned young people to not just speak up, but to shout for what they believe in.
“Dear young people, you have it in you to shout,” he said. “It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders, some corrupt, keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?”
The youth in the crowd chanted “yes,” secure in the knowledge that Pope Francis has been highly supportive of youth causes and a progressive force for change within the Vatican.
“Dear young people, the joy that Jesus awakens in you is a source of anger and even irritation to some, since a joyful young person is hard to manipulate,” Francis continued. “The temptation to silence young people has always existed.”
Pope Francis has a history of gun control advocacy. He has sharply criticized gun manufacturers in the past and suggested that any organization or individual that aids in the proliferation of weapons while identifying as Christian is fundamentally hypocritical. The Pope also has a history of speaking out against policies pushed by members of America’s Republican Party, which has historically rejected gun control while supporting overtly Christian political candidates.