Pope Francis at Villamor Airbase

Pope Francis Calls on Youth to Combat Economic Injustice and Safeguard the Environment

Speaking at a university campus and later a seaside town during a five-day trip to participate in a youth gathering in Portugal, Pope Francis urged students to combat global warming and economic inequalities in pursuit of a fairer and more inclusive world.

The pope arrived in Portugal on August 2 to attend World Youth Day, a significant international gathering of Catholics expected to be attended by around a million people.

The event, held in a different city every two to three years, usually during summer, was initiated by St. John Paul II in the 1980s to inspire and support young Catholics in their religious beliefs. The gathering in Portugal commemorates the fourth World Youth Day under the papacy of Francis, spanning a decade of his leadership.

An academic degree should not be seen merely as a license to pursue personal well-being, but rather as a call to contribute toward a fairer and more inclusive society—one that embodies genuine progress, the pontiff said in a speech at the Lisbon-based Catholic University, which ranks among Portugal’s leading institutions of higher education.

Francis then engaged in more personal and relaxed interaction with youth in the former fishing village of Cascais where popular singer Cuca Roseta sang a poignant rendition of Ave Maria for the pontiff.

Pope Francis kicked off his visit by delivering a straightforward message to European leaders: prioritize investments in young people rather than allocating funds for weapons.

“It is troubling,” the pontiff said, “when we read that in many places funds continue to be invested in arms rather than in the future of the young.”  

Focusing on the war between Russia and Ukraine, the pope expressed his sorrow over Europe’s current state. Despite its historical reputation for valuing dialogue and social unity, the continent appears immobilized in its search for a peaceful outcome to the crisis. 

“Where are you sailing, if you are not showing the world paths of peace, creative ways for bringing an end to the war in Ukraine and to the many other conflicts causing so much bloodshed?” questioned the pope.

He added: “Your technologies, which have brought progress and globalized the world are not by themselves sufficient, much less your highly sophisticated weapons, which do not represent investments for the future but a depletion of its authentic human capital: that of education, health, the welfare of the state.”