Keep shouting, Pope urges gun control advocates

Pope Francis, starting Holy Week services leading to Easter, has urged young people to keep shouting and not allow the older generations to silence their voices or anesthetise their idealism.

Francis spoke a day after hundreds of thousands of young Americans and their supporters answered a call to action from survivors of last month's Florida high school massacre and rallied across the United States to demand tighter gun laws. He did not mention the demonstrations.

The 81-year-old Roman Catholic leader led a long and solemn Palm Sunday service before tens of thousands in St Peter's Square, many of them young people there for the Catholic Church's World Day of Youth.

Carrying a woven palm branch known as a "palmurello," Francis led a procession in front of the largest church in Christendom to commemorate the day the Bible says Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was hailed as a saviour, only to be crucified five days later.

Drawing on biblical parallels, Francis urged the young people in the crowd not to let themselves be manipulated.

"The temptation to silence young people has always existed," Francis said in the homily of a Mass.

"There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible. Many ways to anesthetise 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," he said.

"Dear young people, you have it in you to shout," he told young people, urging them to be like the people who welcomed Jesus with palms rather than those who shouted for his crucifixion only days later.

"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?"

The young people in the crowd shouted, "Yes!"

While Francis did not mention Saturday's marches in the United States, he has often condemned weapons manufacturing and mass shootings.

Reuters