Pope Francis told the school pupils of Bahrain to dream big, take risks, but also rely on guidance from their parents and teachers.
In the Sacred Heart School in Manama, the Pope became counsellor and guide when he addressed excited pupils from across the city.
On his penultimate day in Bahrain, Pope Francis spent an evening with the young people whom he called ‘builders of the future’.
He was asked questions about his teenage years and how to tackle anxiety, stress and bullying.
“Well, my advice is to press forward without fear, but never go it alone,” said Pope Francis, speaking in Italian that was translated for the audience.
“Adolescence is a process, that period in our growth when we begin to face the complexity of life and confront certain challenges for the first time,” he said.
The Pope was responding to questions posed by teenager Merina Motha, who spoke about how young people sometimes felt lost.
“We can lose sight of our priorities and begin to indulge in a culture of indifference,” she said.
“We attempt to run away from our problems, we can begin to loathe ourselves as well as those around us, and even start to forget our own roots.”
Pope draws personal experience from his teen years
She then asked the Pope for advice drawing from his personal experience as a teenager.
His advice was to rely on faith to guide them and never to brush aside suggestions from parents and elders.
“Friends, making decisions is not something we do alone,” he told a packed school hall.
“So, let me say one thing to you. Before you go to the internet for advice, always seek out good counsellors in life, wise and reliable people who can guide and help you.
“I am thinking of parents and teachers, but also of the elderly, your grandparents, and a good spiritual guide. Each of us needs to be accompanied on the road of life.”
The Pope said their contributions were important to the world.
“Dear young people, we need you. We need your creativity, your dreams and your courage, your charm and your smiles, your contagious joy and that touch of craziness that you can bring to every situation, which helps to break us out of our stale habits and ways of looking at things,” he said.
“As Pope, I want to tell you: the church is with you and needs each one of you very much, so that we can be renewed, explore new paths, experiment with new languages, and become more joyful and hospitable.
“Never lose the courage to dream big and to live life to the full.
“And please remember me in your prayers. I will do the same for you, carrying you in my heart.”
He asked pupils to empathise with others, take an interest in people, their city, surroundings and reject indifference.
The Pope was keen they did not spend their lives “like those people who are constantly in a hurry, running around, doing many things at once, but in the end are sad because they have never really known the joy of friendship and generosity”.
He also asked them to make time for themselves and not be distracted by glamour.
“Try to make time to keep in touch with what is going on inside you … to take hold of your life and not let it slip through your fingers,” he said.
“Do not be ‘tourists of life’ who only see it from the outside, who only see the surface of things.”
He said young people were more capable of building friendships, overcoming prejudice and ideological barriers.
“I would like to say this: continue to sow the seeds of fraternity, and you will be builders of the future, because only in fraternity will our world have a future,” he said.
He also urged them to take tough decisions, be bold, take risks and accept challenges.
“Just as when you come to a fork in the road you have to choose, so, when faced with a challenge, you always have to put yourself on the line, take risks and make a decision,” he said.
The 74-year-old school in the care of nuns of the Apostolic Carmel order is the only Catholic school in Bahrain.
Sister Roselyn Thomas, the school principal, said the pupils admired the Pope’s vision of peace and would heed his words.
“The smiling faces of the young people who are present here today express their joy at seeing you in person,” she said.
“Your words will strengthen them to be the hope of a bright future for our world.”