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‘Happiness can’t be downloaded like an app,’ Pope Francis tells teenagers

Pope Francis shakes hands with a teenage boy after hearing his confession in St Peter's Square (AP)

Pope Francis has told teenagers happiness can’t be downloaded like a mobile phone app.

Francis used the reference to connect to faithful aged 13-16 who converged on Rome for a Holy Year weekend for teenagers.

In his homily during Mass on Sunday in St Peter’s Square, he told a crowd of 100,000 that “happiness has no price” and is “not an app that you can download on your phones, nor will the latest update bring you freedom and grandeur in love.”

A day earlier, in a video message to the teens’ rally in a Rome stadium, Francis likened being out of contact with God through lack of love to being where there’s no mobile phone reception.

After Mass, dozens of white-robed priests surrounded Francis, many took selfies with him.

On Saturday morning, Pope Francis surprised those gathered in St Peter’s Square by hearing confessions for more than an hour.

Francis administered the Sacrament of Reconciliation to 16 teenage boys and girls who were visiting the Vatican for the Jubilee for teenagers.

The Pope made the surprise visit to the square to hear confessions alongside 150 other priests. The teenagers who made their confessions to Francis were picked from the crowd at random.

Meanwhile, during the Mass on Sunday, Pope Francis prayed that a “merciful” God will touch the hearts of those in Syria who have abducted Catholic and Orthodox faithful, including bishops and priests, so that the captives will be released soon.

Francis told the faithful that he was very concerned about those held captive in Syria, which has been ravaged by five years of civil war.

The Pope didn’t cite any particular hostage by name and he also appealed for prayers for all persons held kidnapped in the rest of the world.

His remarks came shortly after the third anniversary of the abductions of Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul, both of Aleppo, who were kidnapped on April 22, 2013, in northern Syria.

The two Orthodox prelates were on a humanitarian mission to secure the release of two priests — an Armenian Catholic and a Greek Orthodox — kidnapped earlier that year.

Christians in Syria and war-torn areas of the Middle East and Africa are frequently targeted for kidnappings and acts of violence by terrorist organisations, such as ISIS and the Nusra Front.

While some are either murdered or never heard from again, the release of several religious continue to maintain hope that others may still be alive.

Indian Jesuit Father Alexis Prem Kumar, director of Jesuit Refugee Service in Afghanistan, was kidnapped in June 2014 outside a JRS-run school in Herat. He was released by the Taliban after eight months in captivity. However, the fate of others, including Italian Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio who was kidnapped in Syria in 2013, remain unknown.

More recently, Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnalil was kidnapped in early March from the Missionaries of Charity home in Aden, Yemen, after terrorists entered the facility and murdered four of the sisters and 12 others.

Before leading the faithful in praying the Regina Coeli for those missing, Pope Francis called on Christians to entrust “our aspirations and our hopes to the intercession of Mary, the mother of mercy.”