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Be big-hearted like a giraffe, Jesuit leader tells World Youth Day pilgrims

A baby giraffe (PA)

Using the example of a big-hearted giraffe, the superior general of the Jesuits, Father Adolfo Nicolas, told 2,000 World Youth Day pilgrims: “Keep your eyes and your hearts open.”

The young people from around the world, mostly students from Jesuit universities, gathered in Salvador, Brazil, for Magis, a 10-day pre-World Youth Day programme.

Before setting off for prayer and service activities in dozens of locations throughout Brazil, they attended a Mass on Monday with Father Nicolas.

In his homily Father Nicolas told the pilgrims about a Cambodian bishop who chose the giraffe as his diocesan symbol because it has one of the biggest hearts in the animal kingdom (Giraffes have to have big hearts to pump blood all the way up to their brains).

“Humanity is more than any one of us has experienced in our own countries,” the Jesuit general told the young people, before adding that if they approach the people of Brazil and their fellow pilgrims with a big heart then they can change lives.

The Gospel story of the good Samaritan “contains one of the secrets our faith,” which is that “faith is mostly in the heart,” said Father Nicolas.

Some people, he continued, want to hold on to ancient traditions “which say nothing to you young people. And many young people don’t come to church and the older people say, ‘They have no faith.’ But I say, ‘Yes, they have faith. Look at their hearts. There you will find it.’ God says to us that there is nothing complicated about the faith, but you must listen to your heart.”

World Youth Day celebrations will run from July 23-28 in Rio de Janeiro.