Anyone who has seen today’s LI Catholic website knows that our young Rockville Centre pilgrims ran into Cardinal Dolan at the airport yesterday when they left for World Youth Day in Rio. I can add only that my contribution to WYD is that I drove Bishops Brennan and Perez to the airport for a later plane. With some disappointment I have forgone WYD for the first time since I have been your bishop and I miss it already.

But what is important is that, to no one’s surprise, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has already taken the city and the country by storm and they have taken him into their hearts. That was the very theme of his words: “I have learned that to gain access to the Brazilian people, it is necessary to pass through its great heart, so let me knock gently at this door!” That gentle knocking at the door of the hearts of Brazilian people will bring a new sense of faith and hope and love to one of the great nations and great cultures of faith in the western hemisphere. My prayer is that all the people of Brazil will listen to the words and embrace the message of their former neighbor who is now the spiritual father of us all.

But Pope Francis went on to say “As you know, the principal reason for my visit to Brazil goes beyond its borders … I am here to meet young people coming from all over the world, drawn to the open arms of Christ the redeemer. They want to find a refuge in his embrace, close to his heart, to listen again to his clear and powerful appeal, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’.”

These words of our Holy Father set the tone and the agenda of this gathering that will be truly blessed for all who participate and be a blessing not only for them but for all of us who accompany them with our prayers and look forward to welcoming them home, listening to their stories of pilgrimage and sharing in the gifts of God’s gracious love that will touch them, transform them and make them true disciples of the Lord, eager to go forth into the vineyard and invite all of us to belong more deeply to Christ, His Church and to one another. May God bless all our young people and all who accompany them on this great spiritual adventure in Rio these coming days.