If you move in Catholic circles on Facebook, you’ve probably seen the following quote, allegedly spoken by Pope Francis at World Youth Day this week, being passed around:
“We need saints without cassocks, without veils – we need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to the movies that listen to music, that hang out with their friends. We need saints that place God in first place ahead of succeeding in any career. We need saints that look for time to pray every day and who know how to be in love with purity, chastity and all good things. We need saints – saints for the 21st century with a spirituality appropriate to our new time. We need saints that have a commitment to helping the poor and to make the needed social change.
We need saints to live in the world, to sanctify the world and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it. We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends. We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theater. We need saints that are open sociable normal happy companions. we need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane. We need saints.”
– Pope Francis (World Youth Day 2013)
The thing is, it’s a totally fake quote. There’s no evidence that Pope Francis ever said it.
Google around a bit, and you’ll find versions (some written as verse, many with slight variations) dating back to 2010. Some are attributed to Pope John Paul II, some to Pope Benedict XVI, some say that it is Pope Francis quoting John Paul II or Benedict XVI. One thing you will absolutely not find, however, is any quote of the text on the Vatican website or a reputable Catholic news source, because none of these popes ever said this.
If one gives it an extra moment’s thought, it seems particularly unlikely that Pope Francis would choose World Youth Day to give a shout out to global brands such as Coca-Cola and Apple, in saying that we need saints who use their products.
Of course, one of the problems with a faux Francis getting so much attention is that it draws things away from the things that Pope Francis really has been saying at World Youth Day this week, such as:
“It is true that nowadays, to some extent, everyone, including our young people, feels attracted by the many idols which take the place of God and appear to offer hope: money, success, power, pleasure. Often a growing sense of loneliness and emptiness in the hearts of many people leads them to seek satisfaction in these ephemeral idols. Dear brothers and sisters, let us be lights of hope! Let us maintain a positive outlook on reality.” [source]
Jesus has shown us that the face of God is that of a loving Father. Sin and death have been defeated. Christians cannot be pessimists! They do not look like someone in constant mourning. If we are truly in love with Christ and if we sense how much he loves us, our heart will “light up” with a joy that spreads to everyone around us. As Benedict XVI said here, in this Shrine: “the disciple knows that without Christ, there is no light, no hope, no love, no future” [source]
You can access all of Pope Francis’s addresses from World Youth Day on the Vatican website.