Steph Martin
Steph Martin

Stephanie Martin, a writer and editor in Colorado, has 20 years of Christian publishing experience.

Rio de Janeiro—As he traveled around Brazil for World Youth Day celebrations, Pope Francis denounced the “culture of selfishness and individualism,” imploring people to work for social justice and equality.

Pope Francis, known for his humility, visited one of Rio’s poorest “favelas,” or slums, offering residents hope. Although local authorities have been trying to drive out gangs and drug lords, people still must cope with poor sanitation, frequent power outages, and low wages. Pope Frances appealed “to those in possession of greater resources, to public authorities, and to all people of good will” to “never tire of working for a more just world.”

Millions of worshippers have turned up to see Pope Francis, who’s from Argentina. The pontiff, known as “the people’s pope,” insisted on interacting with crowds despite security concerns throughout the week. A homemade bomb was found at a shrine he was going to visit, and a mob descended on his car when the driver made a wrong turn.

During one mass, Pope Francis said many lonely, empty people—including young people—are replacing the “ephemeral idols” of money, success, power, and pleasure for God. But he also acknowledged the generosity that characterizes many young people today, saying they’re “a powerful engine for the church and for society.” The pontiff encouraged young people to “work actively in building a better world.”

Megan James, a 24 year old who traveled from Texas for World Youth Day, said, “I think there is a greater shift toward vigor and excitement for the faith.” She added that she expects to “see a greater shift toward humility and putting others first.”


Discussion Questions:

  • During the pope’s recent travels, what has made the biggest impression on you, and why? Why do you think he’s eager to be out among the people, despite the security risks?


  • Do you agree that selfishness is a dominant trait of today’s culture? Why or why not? What are some examples you see of both selfishness and selflessness?


  • How concerned are you with matters of social justice and equality? Do you feel as if you can make a difference with such large, prevailing problems? Explain.


  • Regarding wealth and status, where do you think you stand compared to other people around the world? How does hearing about other people’s conditions affect your attitude about how well-off you really are?


  • What are some ways that young people—who might not yet drive or have degrees or jobs—can work at “building a better world”?


  • How willing are you to visit poor or hurting people? What are some ways you might be able to offer them help or hope? What fears might you have to face or overcome to do that?


  • What idols have you been tempted to turn to when you’re struggling? How effective are things such as money and success at boosting your self-esteem and filling the holes in your heart?


  • Would people characterize you as humble? Why or why not? What are some ways you can practice living out that trait each day?


  • What gets you excited about faith and living for God? What type of renewal might your church or youth group need, and why?

Scripture links: Isaiah 58:6-11; Zechariah 7:9-10; Luke 14:12-14; Philippians 2:5-8; 1 Peter 5:5-6; and 1 John 3:17-18.

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