March 25 (UPI) -- Pope France began Holy Week on Palm Sunday by urging young people to not let the older generation silence their voices.
One day after young Americans and their supporters rallied across the United States to demand tighter gun laws, the pontiff spoke directly to the younger generation seven days before Easter. He didn't mention the demonstrators but he has condemned the use of weapons and mass shootings.
On Palm Sunday, the pope appeared before tens of thousands in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, many of them young people participating in Catholic Church's World Day of Youth.
"There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible," he said. "Many ways to anesthetize them, to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing. There are many ways to sedate them, to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive."
Francis urged them not to be manipulated.
During the homily, Francis recalled the words of Jesus to the Pharisees who sought to silence his disciples. To "Teacher, rebuke your disciples," Jesus replied, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out."
On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was hailed as a savior, according to the Bible.
Francis drew parallels to when people welcomed Jesus with palms rather than those who shouted for his crucifixion only days later.
"Dear young people, you have it in you to shout," he said. "It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders, some corrupt, keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?"
Sunday marked the end of the five-day pre-synodal meeting in Rome, which gathered some 300 youth from around the world and additional 15,000 on social media.
After Sunday's liturgy, young people presented Pope Francis with their 16 pages conclusions after their week of discussions.