Pope Francis has sent a special message to the youth who will participate in the Jubilee of Boys and Girls in April, telling them the Holy Year is an opportunity to grow in holiness and mercy, so that they become Christians capable of making courageous decisions.

“Remain steadfast in the journey of faith, with firm hope in the Lord. This is the secret of our journey! He gives us the courage to swim against the tide,” the Pope said in his message to youth, published Jan. 14.

Francis told the youth to “pay attention,” because while going against the current is good for the heart, “we need courage to swim against the tide. Jesus gives us this courage!”

With Jesus “we can do great things,” he said, and encouraged the youth to commit themselves to great and important ideals.

“We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for little things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals,” he said, repeating his appeal to the youth on whom he bestowed the sacrament of Confirmation in 2013.

Pope Francis’ message is aimed at youth ages 13-16, who are the primary participants in the Jubilee for Boys and Girls, which will be celebrated April 23-25 as part of the pontiff’s larger Jubilee of Mercy.

Youth who come on pilgrimage to Rome for the event will on the first day be able to have confession at St. Peter’s and pass through the basilica’s Holy Door, before processing to the tomb of St. Peter.

Day one will close with a youth rally, which will be followed by a Mass with Pope Francis inside St. Peter’s Basilica the next morning. The event will close with individual activities, as well as more visits to the Holy Door.

In his message to youth, Pope Francis encouraged youth to participate in the event, telling them that the Jubilee is “a year-long celebration, in which every moment becomes a chance for us to grow in holiness.”

“It is a time when we can discover that life together as brothers and sisters is like a great party, perhaps the most beautiful party we can imagine, the endless party that Jesus has taught us to celebrate by his Spirit.”

No one is excluded from this party, he said, adding that he is looking forward to seeing many youth in Rome for the April event.

Turning to the theme of the Holy Year, “Merciful Like the Father,” the Pope explained that being merciful means to grow in a love that is “courageous, generous and real,” while at the same time growing in both a physical and spiritual capacity.

As youth, “you are preparing to be Christians capable of making courageous choices and decisions, in order to build daily, even through little things, a world of peace,” he said, and encouraged them to be bold in making decisions contrary to what modern society tells us.

Francis then turned his attention to youth living in situations of war, poverty and loneliness, telling them to never lose hope.

“The Lord has a great dream which, with your help, he wants to come true!” he said, explaining that their peers who are better-off “have not forgotten you,” but are working to establish global peace and justice for everyone.

Rather than being taken in by all the messages of hatred and terror that surround us, it’s necessary to make new friends, the Pope said, encouraging them to give of their time and to always show concern toward those who ask for help.

“Be brave and go against the tide; be friends of Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace,” he said. “Everything in him speaks of mercy. Nothing in him is devoid of compassion.”

While not everyone can make it to Rome for the celebrations, everyone is invited to participate in the Jubilee for Youth and to celebrate in this moment of joy, even within their local dioceses, Francis said.

He told them that preparations for the event shouldn’t stop at just making banners, but they must also prepare their hearts and minds.

“Think carefully about the hope and desires you will hand over to Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and in the Eucharist which we will celebrate together,” he said, and told them to remember as they walk through the Holy Door that they are making a commitment.

“You are committing yourselves to grow in holiness and to draw nourishment from the Gospel and the Eucharist, the Word and the Bread of life, in order to help build a more just and fraternal world.”