Pope's Address to WYD Pilgrims
"Christ needs you by his side to extend and build his Kingdom of charity"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 3, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Monday to a group of youth from Madrid, on a pilgrimage to Rome to thank the Pope for World Youth Day held in their city last summer.

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Lord Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Dear Young People,

Friends All,

I am grateful for the kind words that the Lord Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela addressed to me, making himself the interpreter of the sentiments of all those here present, and I greet him with profound affection, as well as the Lord Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Madrid and the Lord Bishop of San Sebastian, responsible for the Youth Pastoral Department in the Spanish Episcopal Conference.

I am pleased to welcome to the See of Peter, those of you who are part of this pilgrimage, which you organized with eagerness, to thank the Pope for his trip to Spain on the occasion of the World Youth Day, held the last month of August.

I cordially greet the authorities, organizers, sponsors and volunteers , but, in a very special way, the young people, who are the protagonists and principal recipients of this pastoral initiative vigorously stimulated by my beloved predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, of whom today we remember his transit to Heaven.

I also have very present all the bishops of Spain and the episcopal delegates of youth, who collaborated so much in the dioceses for the happy outcome of that significant ecclesial event. And I cannot fail to mention the members of Consecrated Life and so many other persons and institutions that made a valuable and generous contribution to the culmination of this very end.

Whenever I remember the 26th World Youth Day lived in Madrid, my heart fills with gratitude to God for the experience of grace of those unforgettable days. From <the moment> of my arrival, shows of welcome and hospitality succeeded one another and multiplied, together with the faith and joy of the young people, who became eloquent signs of the Risen Christ.

Dear friends, that splendid meeting can only be understood in the light of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church. He does not cease to infuse encouragement in hearts, and continually brings us out to the public square of history, as at Pentecost, to give witness of the wonders of God. You are called to cooperate in this exciting task and it is worthwhile to give oneself to it without reservations. Christ needs you by his side to extend and build his Kingdom of charity. This will be possible if you hold him as the best of friends and confess him by leading a life according to the Gospel, with courage and fidelity.

Someone might think that this has nothing to do with him or that it is an enterprise that exceeds his capacities and talents. But it is not so. No one is extra in this adventure. That is why you must not fail to ask yourselves what the Lord is calling you to do and how you can help him. You all have a personal vocation that he has desired to propose to you for your happiness and holiness. When one sees oneself conquered by the fire of his look, no sacrifice seems too great to follow him and to give him the best of oneself. So did the saints do always, spreading the light of the Lord and the power of his love, transforming the world until converting it into a welcoming home for all, where God is glorified and his children are blessed.

Dear young people, like those Apostles of the first hour, you also must be missionaries of Christ among your relatives, friends and acquaintances, in your study and work environments, among the poor and the sick. Speak of his love and goodness with simplicity, free of complexes and fears. Christ himself will give you the strength for it. On your part, listen to him and have a frequent and sincere exchange with him. Tell him with confidence about your yearnings and aspirations, also about your sorrows and those of persons you see lacking in consolation and hope. Evoking those splendid days, I wish to exhort you likewise not to spare any effort so that those around you will discover him personally and meet him, who is alive and with his Church.

Yesterday, with the solemnity of Palm Sunday, we began Holy Week, in which we follow Christ’s steps to the celebration of the Paschal Mystery. We acclaim him as Messiah and Son of David, waving, like the children and young people of Jerusalem, the palms of salvation and jubilation. At the same time, we contemplate the sorrowful Passion and his humiliation unto death. I invite you, during these holy days, to unite yourselves fully to our Redeemer, recalling that solemn Via Crucis of the World Youth Day. In it we prayed, moved by the beauty of those sacred images, which expressed profoundly the mysteries of our faith. I encourage you also to bear your cross, the cross of the pain and sins of the world, so that you understand better Christ’s love for humanity. Thus you will feel called to proclaim that God loves man and sent his Son, not to condemn him, but to have him attain a full and meaningful life.

Dear friends, I am sure that you are already thinking of going to Rio de Janeiro, where many young people of the whole world will again congregate, in what will undoubtedly be one more milestone of the journey of the Church, always young, which wishes to widen the horizon of the new generations with the treasure of the Gospel, force of life for the world. As we now go forward with our eyes fixed on the imminent dawn of Easter, may the celebration of the World Youth Day in Brazil be a new and joyful experience of the Risen Christ, who leads the whole of humanity to the clarity of life that proceeds from God.

May Mary Most Holy, who remained silent at the foot of the cross with her Son and waited patiently for the fulfillment of his promises, be always for you Mother of mercy, life, sweetness and hope. Thank you, many thanks for your festive and jovial presence, dear young people. I bless you from the depth of my heart.


Pontiff's Letter for Year of St. Clare
"Those who do the Lords will and confide in him not alone do not lose anything"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 2, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's message to the bishop of Assisi regarding the year of St. Clare.

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To our Venerable Brother Domenico Sorrentino, Bishop of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino

With joy I learned that, in this diocese, as also among the Franciscans and Poor Clares of the whole world, St. Clare is being remembered with a Year of St. Clare (“Anno Clariano”), on the eighth centenary of her “conversion” and consecration. This event, whose dating vacillates between 1211 and 1212, completed “in a feminine way,” so to speak, the grace that had arrived in the community a few years earlier with the conversion of the son of Pietro di Bernardone. And, just as it happened with Francis, so also there was hidden in Clare’s decision the budding of a new fraternity, the Order of St. Clare that, having grown into a healthy tree, continues in the silence of the cloisters to sow the good seed of the Gospel and to serve the cause of the Kingdom of God.

This happy circumstance compels me to return to Assisi in spirit, to reflect with you, dear brother, and the community entrusted to you, and, just as much, with the sons of St. Francis and the daughters of St. Clare, on the meaning of that event. It also speaks to our generation, and is alluring above all to young people, to whom my affectionate thoughts turn on the occasion of World Youth Day, celebrated this year, according to custom, in the particular Churches precisely on this day of Palm Sunday.

The saint herself speaks of her radical choice for Christ in terms of “conversion” in her Testament (cf. FF 2825). I would like to begin from this aspect, almost in a sense taking up again the thread of the speech I gave on June 17, 2007 about Francis’ conversion when I had the joy to visit this diocese. The story of Clare’s conversion centers on the liturgical feast of Palm Sunday. In fact she writes in her biography: “The solemn day of the Palms was near, when the young woman went to the man of God to ask him about her conversion, when and how to act. She was ordered by father Francis to go among the crowds on Palm Sunday dressed elegantly and ornately, and then, going out of the city on that night, to covert her worldly joy into the sorrow of Passion Sunday. Sunday having arrived, the young woman, resplendent in a festive light, went with the other ladies into the church. Here it happened, with worthy portentousness, that while the others ran to receive the palms, Clare, through modesty, stood motionless and the bishop, descending the steps, came to her and placed a palm in her hands” (Legenda Sanctae Clarae virginis, 7: FF 3168).

About 6 years had passed since Francis had set out upon the path of sanctity. In the words of the crucifix of San Damiano – “Go, Francis, repair my house” – and in the embrace of the lepers, the suffering face of Christ, he found his vocation. It manifested itself in the liberating gesture of divesting himself of his garments in the presence of Bishop Guido. Faced with the choice between the idol of money proposed by his earthly father and God’s love that promised to fill his heart, he had no doubts, and with great spirit exclaimed: “From now on I can freely say, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven,’ not father Pietro di Bernardone” (Vita Seconda, 12: FF 597). Francis’ decision disconcerted the city. The first years of his new life were marked by hardship, bitterness and incomprehension. But many began to think. The young Clare, an adolescent at the time, was moved by that witness. Gifted with a strong religious sense, she was conquered by the existential “turn” of the man who had been the “king of the parties.” She found a way to meet him and she let herself be caught up in his ardor for Christ. The biographer sketches the young convert instructing his new disciple: “The father Francis exhorted her to despise the world, demonstrating, with lively speech, that hope directed to this world is arid and leads to disappointment, and he put into her ears the sweet union with Christ” (Vita Sanctae Clarae Virginis, 5: FF 3164).

According to the Testament of St. Clare, even before receiving his other companions, Francis prophesied the journey of his first spiritual daughter and her sisters. In fact, while he was restoring the church of San Damiano, where the crucifix spoke to him, he announced that that place would be inhabited by women who would glorify God by the saintly tenor of their life (cf. FF 2826; cfr Tommaso da Celano, Vita seconda, 13: FF 599). The original crucifix is now found in the Basilica of St. Clare. Those large eyes of Christ that fascinated Francis would become Clare’s “mirror.” It is not by chance that the mirror theme would become so dear to Clare and, in the fourth letter to Agnes of Prague, she would write: “Look into this mirror every day, O queen, bride of Jesus Christ, and continuously look upon your face therein” (FF 2902). In the years in which she met with Francis to learn from him about the path to God, Clare was a pretty girl. The Poverello of Assisi showed to her a higher beauty, which cannot be measured by the mirror of vanity, but that develops into an authentic life, following in the footsteps of Christ crucified. God is the true beauty! Clare’s heart was illumined by this splendor, and this gave her the courage to let her locks be cut and begin a penitential life. For her, as for Francis, this decision was marked by much difficulty. If some of her relatives understood her immediately – and indeed her mother Ortolana and 2 of her sisters followed her in her choice of life – others reacted violently. Her flight from her house the night between Palm Sunday and Monday of Holy Week was adventurous. In the succeeding days she was followed into the places that Francis had prepared for her and there were attempts, even forceful ones, to make her go back on her decision.

Clare was prepared for this fight. And if Francis was her guide, as a paternal support she was also helped by Bishop Guido, as more than one clue suggests. This is how we can explain the prelate’s gesture when he offered her the palm, as if to bless her courageous decision. Without the bishop’s support it would have been hard for her to follow the plan devised by Francis that she put into action, whether her consecration in the Chapel of the Portiuncula in the presence of Francis and his friars, or in the hospitality that she received in the following days in the monastery of San Paolo delle Abbadesse and in the community of Sant’Angelo in Panzo, before her definitive arrival at San Damiano. The events of Clare’s life, like those of Francis’, manifest a particular ecclesial trait. In these events there meet an enlightened shepherd and a son and daughter of the Church who entrust themselves to his judgment. Institution and charism and interact stupendously. Love and obedience to the Church, so marked in Franciscan-Claretian spirituality, sink their roots into the beautiful experience of the Christian community of Assisi, which not only gave birth to the faith of Francis and his “little shoot,” but also accompanied them along the path of sanctity.

Francis well understood the reason for suggesting to Clare that she leave her house at the beginning of Holy Week. The whole of Christian life, and therefore the life of special consecration, are a fruit of the paschal mystery and a participation in the death and resurrection of Christ. Sadness and glory are interwoven in the liturgy of Palm Sunday like theme that will be further developed in the days that follow through the darkness of the Passion to the light of Easter. Clare, with her decision, revives this mystery. She gets the plan, so to speak, on Palm Sunday. She then enters into the drama of the Passion, giving up her hair, and with it giving up her entire self to be the bride of Christ in humility and in poverty. Francis and his companions are now her family. Soon her sisters will arrive, even from far away, but the first buds, as in the case of Francis, will sprout in Assisi. And Clare would always remain linked to her city, especially showing her commitment even in difficult circumstances, when her prayers saved Assisi from violence and devastation. She said at that time to her sisters: “Every day we have received from this city many good things, dear sisters; it would be quite wicked if we were not to assist now in this time of need” (Legenda Sanctae Clarae Virginis 23: FF 3203).

In its profound meaning, Clare’s “conversion” is a conversion to love. She will no longer have the refined habits of the Assisi nobility but the elegance of a soul that spends itself in the praise of God and gift of self. In the little space of the monastery of San Damiano, in the school of Jesus contemplated with spousal affection in the Eucharist, the features of a community ruled by love for God and by prayer, by care and by service. It is in this context of profound faith and of great humanity that Clare is formed into the sure interpreter of the Franciscan ideal, imploring that “privilege” of poverty, that is, the renunciation of possessing even communal goods, which for a long time left the sovereign pontiff himself perplexed, although in the end he recognized the heroism of her sanctity.

How can we not propose Clare, and Francis, to young people today? The time that separates us from the event of these 2 saints has not diminished their power of attraction. On the contrary, we can see their relevance in the face of the illusions and delusions that mark the contemporary condition of young people. Never before has a time inspired so much dreaming among the youth, with the thousand attractions of a life in which everything seems possible and licit. And yet, how much dissatisfaction is present, how often the pursuit of happiness, of realization ends up setting out on roads that lead to false paradises, such as those of drugs and unbridled sexuality! The current situation of difficulty in finding dignified work and of forming a unified and happy family, also adds clouds to the horizon. There is no lack, however, of young people, in our times too, who accept the invitation to give themselves to Christ and to face the journey of life with courage, responsibility and hope, even making the choice to leave everything to follow him in total service to him and to our brothers. The story of Clare, together with that of Francis, is an invitation to reflect on the meaning of existence and to seek in God the secret of true joy. It is a concrete proof that those who do the Lord’s will and confide in him not alone do not lose anything, but find the real treasure that is able to confer meaning on everything.

To you, venerable brother, to this Church that has the honor of bearing Francis and Clare, and the Poor Clares, who daily show forth the beauty and fecundity of the contemplative life, in support of the journey of the People of God, and to the Franciscans all over the world, to many young people who are seeking and in need of light, I offer this brief reflection. I hope that it will contribute to an ever new rediscovery of these 2 luminous figures in the firmament of the Church. With a particular thought for the daughters of St. Clare of the Protomonastery, of the other monasteries of Assisi and around the world, from my heart I impart to all my apostolic blessing.

From the Vatican, April 1, 2012, Palm Sunday



Papal Message for Palm Sunday World Youth Day 2012
"Joy is at the heart of Christian experience"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 27, 2012 Here is the text of Benedict XVI's message for the diocesan-level World Youth Day, traditionally celebrated each Palm Sunday, and thus to be held this Sunday. The Vatican released the message today.

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“Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4)

Dear young friends,

I am happy to address you once more on the occasion of the 27th World Youth Day. The memory of our meeting in Madrid last August remains close to my heart. It was a time of extraordinary grace when God showered his blessings on the young people gathered from all over the world. I give thanks to God for all the fruits which that event bore, fruits which will surely multiply for young people and their communities in the future. Now we are looking forward to our next meeting in Rio de Janeiro in 2013, whose theme will be: “Go and make disciples of all nations!” (cf. Mt 28:19).

This year’s World Youth Day theme comes from Saint Paul’s exhortation in his Letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (4:4). Joy is at the heart of Christian experience. At each World Youth Day we experience immense joy, the joy of communion, the joy of being Christian, the joy of faith. This is one of the marks of these gatherings. We can see the great attraction that joy exercises. In a world of sorrow and anxiety, joy is an important witness to the beauty and reliability of the Christian faith.

The Church’s vocation is to bring joy to the world, a joy that is authentic and enduring, the joy proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds on the night Jesus was born (cf. Lk 2:10). Not only did God speak, not only did he accomplish great signs throughout the history of humankind, but he drew so near to us that he became one of us and lived our life completely. In these difficult times, so many young people all around you need to hear that the Christian message is a message of joy and hope! I would like to reflect with you on this joy and on how to find it, so that you can experience it more deeply and bring it to everyone you meet.

1. Our hearts are made for joy

A yearning for joy lurks within the heart of every man and woman. Far more than immediate and fleeting feelings of satisfaction, our hearts seek a perfect, full and lasting joy capable of giving “flavour” to our existence. This is particularly true for you, because youth is a time of continuous discovery of life, of the world, of others and of ourselves. It is a time of openness to the future and of great longing for happiness, friendship, sharing and truth, a time when we are moved by high ideals and make great plans.

Each day is filled with countless simple joys which are the Lord’s gift: the joy of living, the joy of seeing nature’s beauty, the joy of a job well done, the joy of helping others, the joy of sincere and pure love. If we look carefully, we can see many other reasons to rejoice. There are the happy times in family life, shared friendship, the discovery of our talents, our successes, the compliments we receive from others, the ability to express ourselves and to know that we are understood, and the feeling of being of help to others. There is also the excitement of learning new things, seeing new and broader horizons open up through our travels and encounters, and realizing the possibilities we have for charting our future. We might also mention the experience of reading a great work of literature, of admiring a masterpiece of art, of listening to or playing music, or of watching a film. All these things can bring us real joy.

Yet each day we also face any number of difficulties. Deep down we also worry about the future; we begin to wonder if the full and lasting joy for which we long might be an illusion and an escape from reality. Many young people ask themselves: is perfect joy really possible? The quest for joy can follow various paths, and some of these turn out to be mistaken, if not dangerous. How can we distinguish things that give real and lasting joy from immediate and illusory pleasures? How can we find true joy in life, a joy that endures and does not forsake us at moments of difficulty?

2. God is the source of true joy

Whatever brings us true joy, whether the small joys of each day or the greatest joys in life, has its source in God, even if this does not seem immediately obvious. This is because God is a communion of eternal love, he is infinite joy that does not remain closed in on itself, but expands to embrace all whom God loves and who love him. God created us in his image out of love, in order to shower his love upon us and to fill us with his presence and grace. God wants us to share in his own divine and eternal joy, and he helps us to see that the deepest meaning and value of our lives lie in being accepted, welcomed and loved by him. Whereas we sometimes find it hard to accept others, God offers us an unconditional acceptance which enables us to say: “I am loved; I have a place in the world and in history; I am personally loved by God. If God accepts me and loves me and I am sure of this, then I know clearly and with certainty that it is a good thing that I am alive”.

God’s infinite love for each of us is fully seen in Jesus Christ. The joy we are searching for is to be found in him. We see in the Gospel how the events at the beginning of Jesus’ life are marked by joy. When the Archangel Gabriel tells the Virgin Mary that she is to be the mother of the Saviour, his first word is “Rejoice!” (Lk 1:28). When Jesus is born, the angel of the Lord says to the shepherds: “Behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a Saviour has been born for you, who is Messiah and Lord” (Lk 2:10-11). When the Magi came in search of the child, “they were overjoyed at seeing the star” (Mt 2:10). The cause of all this joy is the closeness of God who became one of us. This is what Saint Paul means when he writes to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near” (Phil 4:4-5). Our first reason for joy is the closeness of the Lord, who welcomes me and loves me.

An encounter with Jesus always gives rise to immense inner joy. We can see this in many of the Gospel stories. We recall when Jesus visited Zacchaeus, a dishonest tax collector and public sinner, he said to him: “Today I must stay at your house”. Then, Saint Luke tells us, Zacchaeus “received him with joy” (Lk 19:5-6). This is the joy of meeting the Lord. It is the joy of feeling God’s love, a love that can transform our whole life and bring salvation. Zacchaeus decides to change his life and to give half of his possessions to the poor.

At the hour of Jesus’ passion, this love can be seen in all its power. At the end of his earthly life, while at supper with his friends, Jesus said: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love... I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:9,11). Jesus wants to lead his disciples and each one of us into the fullness of joy that he shares with the Father, so that the Father’s love for him might abide in us (cf. Jn17:26). Christian joy consists in being open to God’s love and belonging to him.

The Gospels recount that Mary Magdalene and other women went to visit the tomb where Jesus had been laid after his death. An angel told them the astonishing news of Jesus’ resurrection. Then, the Evangelist tells us, they ran from the sepulchre, “fearful yet overjoyed” to share the good news with the disciples. Jesus met them on the way and said: “Peace!” (Mt28:8-9). They were being offered the joy of salvation. Christ is the One who lives and who overcame evil, sin and death. He is present among us as the Risen One and he will remain with us until the end of the world (cf. Mt 28:20). Evil does not have the last word in our lives; rather, faith in Christ the Saviour tells us that God’s love is victorious.

This deep joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit who makes us God’s sons and daughters, capable of experiencing and savouring his goodness, and calling him “Abba”, Father (cf. Rm 8:15). Joy is the sign of God’s presence and action within us.

3. Preserving Christian joy in our hearts

At this point we wonder: “How do we receive and maintain this gift of deep, spiritual joy?”

One of the Psalms tells us: “Find your delight in the Lord who will give you your heart's desire” (Ps 37:4). Jesus told us that “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Mt 13:44). The discovery and preservation of spiritual joy is the fruit of an encounter with the Lord. Jesus asks us to follow him and to stake our whole life on him. Dear young people, do not be afraid to risk your lives by making space for Jesus Christ and his Gospel. This is the way to find inner peace and true happiness. It is the way to live fully as children of God, created in his image and likeness.

Seek joy in the Lord: for joy is the fruit of faith. It is being aware of his presence and friendship every day: “the Lord is near!” (Phil 4:5). It is putting our trust in God, and growing in his knowledge and love. Shortly we shall begin the “Year of Faith”, and this will help and encourage us. Dear friends, learn to see how God is working in your lives and discover him hidden within the events of daily life. Believe that he is always faithful to the covenant which he made with you on the day of your Baptism. Know that God will never abandon you. Turn your eyes to him often. He gave his life for you on the cross because he loves you. Contemplation of this great love brings a hope and joy to our hearts that nothing can destroy. Christians can never be sad, for they have met Christ, who gave his life for them.

To seek the Lord and find him in our lives also means accepting his word, which is joy for our hearts. The Prophet Jeremiah wrote: “When I found your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart” (Jer 15:16). Learn to read and meditate on the sacred Scriptures. There you will find an answer to your deepest questions about truth. God’s word reveals the wonders that he has accomplished throughout human history, it fills us with joy, and it leads us to praise and adoration: “Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord; let us kneel before the Lord who made us” (Ps 95:1,6).

The liturgy is a special place where the Church expresses the joy which she receives from the Lord and transmits it to the world. Each Sunday at Mass the Christian community celebrates the central mystery of salvation, which is the death and resurrection of Christ. This is a very important moment for all the Lord’s disciples because his sacrifice of love is made present. Sunday is the day when we meet the risen Christ, listen to his word, and are nourished by his body and blood. As we hear in one of the Psalms: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad” (Ps 118:24). At the Easter Vigil, the Church sings the Exultet, a hymn of joy for the victory of Jesus Christ over sin and death: “Sing, choirs of angels! ... Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendour ... Let this place resound with joy, echoing the mighty song of all God’s people!” Christian joy is born of this awareness of being loved by God who became man, gave his life for us and overcame evil and death. It means living a life of love for him. As Saint Thérčse of the Child Jesus, a young Carmelite, wrote: “Jesus, my joy is loving you” (P 45, 21 January 1897).

4. The joy of love

Dear friends, joy is intimately linked to love. They are inseparable gifts of the Holy Spirit (cf.Gal 5:23). Love gives rise to joy, and joy is a form of love. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta drew on Jesus’ words: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) when she said: “Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls; God loves a cheerful giver. Whoever gives with joy gives more”. As the Servant of God Paul VI wrote: “In God himself, all is joy because all is giving” (Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete in Domino, 9 May 1975).

In every area of your life, you should know that to love means to be steadfast, reliable and faithful to commitments. This applies most of all to friendship. Our friends expect us to be sincere, loyal and faithful because true love perseveres even in times of difficulty. The same thing can be said about your work and studies and the services you carry out. Fidelity and perseverance in doing good brings joy, even if not always immediately.

If we are to experience the joy of love, we must also be generous. We cannot be content to give the minimum. We need to be fully committed in life and to pay particular attention to those in need. The world needs men and women who are competent and generous, willing to be at the service of the common good. Make every effort to study conscientiously, to develop your talents and to put them at the service of others even now. Find ways to help make society more just and humane wherever you happen to be. May your entire life be guided by a spirit of service and not by the pursuit of power, material success and money.

Speaking of generosity, I would like to mention one particular joy. It is the joy we feel when we respond to the vocation to give our whole life to the Lord. Dear young people, do not be afraid if Christ is calling you to the religious, monastic or missionary life or to the priesthood. Be assured that he fills with joy all those who respond to his invitation to leave everything to be with him and to devote themselves with undivided heart to the service of others. In the same way, God gives great joy to men and women who give themselves totally to one another in marriage in order to build a family and to be signs of Christ’s love for the Church.

Let me remind you of a third element that will lead you to the joy of love. It is allowing fraternal love to grow in your lives and in those of your communities. There is a close bond between communion and joy. It is not by chance that Saint Paul’s exhortation: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4) is written in the plural, addressing the community as a whole, rather than its individual members. Only when we are together in the communion of fellowship do we experience this joy. In the Acts of the Apostles, the first Christian community is described in these words: “Breaking bread in their homes, they ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart” (Acts 2:46). I ask you to make every effort to help our Christian communities to be special places of sharing, attention and concern for one another.

5. The joy of conversion

Dear friends, experiencing real joy also means recognizing the temptations that lead us away from it. Our present-day culture often pressures us to seek immediate goals, achievements and pleasures. It fosters fickleness more than perseverance, hard work and fidelity to commitments. The messages it sends push a consumerist mentality and promise false happiness. Experience teaches us that possessions do not ensure happiness. How many people are surrounded by material possessions yet their lives are filled with despair, sadness and emptiness! To have lasting joy we need to live in love and truth. We need to live in God.

God wants us to be happy. That is why he gave us specific directions for the journey of life: the commandments. If we observe them, we will find the path to life and happiness. At first glance, they might seem to be a list of prohibitions and an obstacle to our freedom. But if we study them more closely, we see in the light of Christ’s message that the commandments are a set of essential and valuable rules leading to a happy life in accordance with God’s plan. How often, on the other hand, do we see that choosing to build our lives apart from God and his will brings disappointment, sadness and a sense of failure. The experience of sin, which is the refusal to follow God and an affront to his friendship, brings gloom into our hearts.

At times the path of the Christian life is not easy, and being faithful to the Lord’s love presents obstacles; occasionally we fall. Yet God in his mercy never abandons us; he always offers us the possibility of returning to him, being reconciled with him and experiencing the joy of his love which forgives and welcomes us back.

Dear young people, have frequent recourse to the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation! It is the sacrament of joy rediscovered. Ask the Holy Spirit for the light needed to acknowledge your sinfulness and to ask for God’s forgiveness. Celebrate this sacrament regularly, with serenity and trust. The Lord will always open his arms to you. He will purify you and bring you into his joy: for there is joy in heaven even for one sinner who repents (cf. Lk 15:7).

6. Joy at times of trial

In the end, though, we might still wonder in our hearts whether it is really possible to live joyfully amid all life’s trials, especially those which are most tragic and mysterious. We wonder whether following the Lord and putting our trust in him will always bring happiness.

We can find an answer in some of the experiences of young people like yourselves who have found in Christ the light that can give strength and hope even in difficult situations. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925) experienced many trials during his short life, including a romantic experience that left him deeply hurt. In the midst of this situation he wrote to his sister: “You ask me if I am happy. How could I not be? As long as faith gives me strength, I am happy. A Catholic could not be other than happy... The goal for which we were created involves a path which has its thorns, but it is not a sad path. It is joy, even when it involves pain” (Letter to his sister Luciana, Turin, 14 February 1925). When Blessed John Paul IIpresented Blessed Pier Giorgio as a model for young people, he described him as “a young person with infectious joy, the joy that overcame many difficulties in his life” (Address to Young People, Turin, 13 April 1980).

Closer to us in time is Chiara Badano (1971-1990), who was recently beatified. She experienced how pain could be transfigured by love and mysteriously steeped in joy. At the age of eighteen, while suffering greatly from cancer, Chiara prayed to the Holy Spirit and interceded for the young people of the movement to which she belonged. As well as praying for her own cure, she asked God to enlighten all those young people by his Spirit and to give them wisdom and light. “It was really a moment of God’s presence. I was suffering physically, but my soul was singing” (Letter to Chiara Lubich, Sassello, 20 December 1989). The key to her peace and joy was her complete trust in the Lord and the acceptance of her illness as a mysterious expression of his will for her sake and that of everyone. She often said: “Jesus, if you desire it, then I desire it too”.

These are just two testimonies taken from any number of others which show that authentic Christians are never despairing or sad, not even when faced with difficult trials. They show that Christian joy is not a flight from reality, but a supernatural power that helps us to deal with the challenges of daily life. We know that the crucified and risen Christ is here with us and that he is a faithful friend always. When we share in his sufferings, we also share in his glory. With him and in him, suffering is transformed into love. And there we find joy (cf. Col 1:24).

7. Witnesses of joy

Dear friends, to conclude I would encourage you to be missionaries of joy. We cannot be happy if others are not. Joy has to be shared. Go and tell other young people about your joy at finding the precious treasure which is Jesus himself. We cannot keep the joy of faith to ourselves. If we are to keep it, we must give it away. Saint John said: “What we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; we are writing this so that our joy may be complete” (1 Jn 1:3-4).

Christianity is sometimes depicted as a way of life that stifles our freedom and goes against our desires for happiness and joy. But this is far from the truth. Christians are men and women who are truly happy because they know that they are not alone. They know that God is always holding them in his hands. It is up to you, young followers of Christ, to show the world that faith brings happiness and a joy which is true, full and enduring. If the way Christians live at times appears dull and boring, you should be the first to show the joyful and happy side of faith. The Gospel is the “good news” that God loves us and that each of us is important to him. Show the world that this is true!

Be enthusiastic witnesses of the new evangelization! Go to those who are suffering and those who are searching, and give them the joy that Jesus wants to bestow. Bring it to your families, your schools and universities, and your workplaces and your friends, wherever you live. You will see how it is contagious. You will receive a hundredfold: the joy of salvation for yourselves, and the joy of seeing God’s mercy at work in the hearts of others. And when you go to meet the Lord on that last day, you will hear him say: “Well done, my good and faithful servant... Come, share your master’s joy” (Mt 25:21).

May the Blessed Virgin Mary accompany you on this journey. She welcomed the Lord within herself and proclaimed this in a song of praise and joy, the Magnificat: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Lk 1:46-47). Mary responded fully to God’s love by devoting her life to him in humble and complete service. She is invoked as “Cause of our Joy” because she gave us Jesus. May she lead you to that joy which no one will ever be able to take away from you!

From the Vatican, 15 March 2012


© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Address to Marian Group of His Youth
Nazi Power "Cast Doubt on the Future of Christianity"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 30, 2011 - Here is a translation of an address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to the Marianische Männer-Congregation "Mariä Verkündung" (the Sodality of Our Lady), a Marian group from Regensburg, Germany, which he himself joined as a teenager.

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Dear Mr. President,
Dear Members of the Sodality,

A cordial "vergelt's Gott" [God reward you] for your visit, for the gift, for the fact of having drawn out of the past a forgotten moment of my life. In fact, it is a time that is not simply "in the past": admission in this Marian Congregation looks to the future, and it is never simply a time that passed. See, after 70 years, this moment is a time of "today," a time that indicates the way to "tomorrow." I am grateful for your having "pulled out" this time and I am happy.

I thank you from my heart, dear president, for your kind words, which came from the heart and go to the heart. At that period, then -- they were dark times; there was the War. Hitler had subjected one country after another, Poland, Denmark, the Benelux States and France, and in April of 1941 -- precisely in this season 70 years ago -- he had occupied Yugoslavia and Greece. It seemed that the Continent was in the hands of this power that, at the same time, cast doubt on the future of Christianity.

We had been admitted to the Congregation, but shortly after the war began against Russia, the seminary was dissolved, and the Congregation -- before it was reunited, before it succeeded in coming together again -- was already scattered to the four winds. Thus what was not considered an "exterior moment" of life nevertheless remained an "interior moment" of life, because it has always been clear that Catholicity cannot exist without a Marian expression, that to be Catholics means to be Marian, that this means love for the Mother, that in the Mother and by the Mother we find the Lord.

Here, through bishops' "ad limina" visits, I constantly witness how people -- above all in Latin America, but also on the other continents -- can entrust themselves to the Mother, can love the Mother and, through the Mother they learn to know, understand and love Christ. I see how the Mother continues entrusting the world to the Lord, how Mary continues to say "yes" and to bring Christ into the world.

After the War, when we studied, the Mariology that was taught in the German universities was a bit austere and sober -- and I believe it has not changed much today; I do not think the situation is much improved. I believe, however, that we found the essential. At that time, we were oriented to Guardini and to the book of his friend, parish priest Josef Weiger, "Maria, Mutter der Glaubenden" (Mary, Mother of Believers), which referred to the words of Elizabeth: "Blessed are you who have believed!" (cf. Luke 1:45).

Mary is the great believer. She took up Abraham's mission to be a believer and made Abraham's faith concrete in faith in Jesus Christ, thus indicating to us the whole way of faith, the courage of entrusting ourselves to that God who gives himself into our hands, the joy of being his witnesses; and then her determination to remain firm when all fled, the courage to be on the Lord's side when he seemed lost, and rendering precisely in this way that witness that led to Easter.

Therefore, I am pleased to know that in Bavaria there are about 40,000 members of the Sodality; that still today there are men who, together with Mary, love the Lord, men who, through Mary, learn to know and to love the Lord and, like her, give witness of the Lord in difficult hours and in happy hours; who are with him, under the cross and who continue to live Easter joyfully together with him. Hence, I thank all of you because you hold this witness high, because we know that there are Bavarian Catholic men who are in this Sodality, who journey on this path opened by the Jesuits in the 16th century, and who continue to demonstrate that faith does not belong to the past, but is always open to a "today" and, above all, to a "tomorrow."

"Vergelt's Gott fur alles" [God reward you for everything], and God bless you all! Thank you from my heart.


Pope's Preface to New Catechism for Youth
"It Speaks to Us of Our Very Destiny"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 6, 2011- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's preface to "Youcat," the new catechism for young people being prepared in light of the upcoming World Youth Day. Ignatius Press is publishing the English version, due out March 1. L'Osservatore Romano published the Holy Father's preface in Italian.

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Dear Friends, Young People!

Today I counsel you to read an extraordinary book.

It is extraordinary because of its content but also because of its format, which I wish to explain to you briefly, so that you will understand its particularity. Youcat drew its origin, so to speak, from another work that came out in the 80s. It was a difficult period for the Church as well as for worldwide society, during which the need was perceived of new guidelines to find a way towards the future. After the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and in the changing cultural environment, many people no longer knew correctly what Christians should actually believe, what the Church taught, if it could, no more and no less, teach, and how all this could be adapted to the new cultural climate.

Is not Christianity, as such, obsolete? Can one still today be reasonably a believer? These are the questions that still today many Christian ask themselves. Pope John Paul II then made an audacious decision: he decided that the bishops worldwide should write a book to answer these questions.

He entrusted to me the task of coordinating and overseeing the work of the bishops so that a book would be born from the contributions of the bishops, a real book and not a simple juxtaposition of a multiplicity of texts. This book was to bear the traditional title of Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), and yet be something altogether stimulating and new; it was to show what the Catholic Church believes today and how one can believe in a reasonable way. I was frightened by this task, and I must confess that I doubted that such a thing could succeed. How could it be that authors who are spread around the whole world could produce a legible book? How could men who live in different continents, and not only from the geographical but also from the intellectual and cultural point of view, produce a text with an internal and comprehensible unity in all the continents?

To this was added the fact that the bishops had to write not simply as individual authors but in representation of their confreres and their local Churches.

I must confess that still today the fact seems a miracle to me that this project in the end succeeded. We met three or four times a year for a week and discussed passionately on the individual portions of the text that had been developed in the meantime.

The first thing to be defined was the structure of the book: it had to be simple, so that the individual groups of authors could receive a clear task and not force their affirmations into a complicated system. It is the very structure of this book, it is taken simply from a centuries-long catechetical experience: what do we believe/ in what way do we celebrate the Christian mysteries / in what way do we have life in Christ / in what way should we pray. I do not wish to explain now how we engaged in the great quantity of questions, until a real book resulted. In a book of this nature there are many debatable points: all that men do is insufficient and can be improved and, this notwithstanding, it is a great book, a sign of unity in diversity. From many voices it was possible to form a choir because they had the common score of the faith, which the Church has transmitted to us from the Apostles through the centuries until today.

Why all this?

Already then, at the time of the drafting of the CCC, we realized not only that the continents and the cultures of their people are different, but that also within the individual societies different "continents" exist: A worker has a different mentality from a peasant's, and a physicist from a philologist's; an entrepreneur from a journalist's, a youth from an elderly person's. For this reason, in language and in thought we had to place ourselves above all these differences and so to speak seek a common area among the different universal mentalities; with this we became ever more aware of how the text required "translations" into the different worlds, to be able to reach the people with their different mentalities and different problems. Since then, in the World Youth Days (Rome, Toronto, Cologne, Sydney) young people from all over the world have met who want to believe, who are searching for God, who love Christ and desire common paths. In this context we asked ourselves if we should not seek to translate the Catechism of the Catholic Church into the language of young people and make its words penetrate their world. Of course also among the young people of today there are many differences; thus, under the tested guidance of the archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schoenborn, a Youcat was formatted for young people. I hope that many young people will let themselves be fascinated by this book.

Some persons tell me that the catechism does not interest today's youth, but I do not believe this affirmation and I am sure I am right. Youth is not as superficial as it is accused of being; young people want to know what life truly consists of. A crime novel is fascinating because it involves us in the fate of other persons, but which could also be our own; this book is fascinating because it speaks to us of our very destiny and that is why it concerns each one of us very closely.

Because of this I invite you: Study the catechism! This is my heartfelt wish.

This supplement to the catechism does not flatter you; it does not offer easy solutions; it calls for a new life on your part; it presents to you the message of the Gospel as the "precious pearl" (Matthew 13:45) for which there is need to give everything, Because of this I ask you: study the catechism with passion and perseverance! Sacrifice your time for it! Study it in the silence of your room, read it together, if you are friends, form groups and study networks, exchange ideas on the Internet. In any case remain in dialogue on your faith!

You must know what you believe; you must know your faith with the same precision with which a specialist in information technology knows the working system of a computer; you must know it as a musician knows his piece; yes, you must be much more profoundly rooted in the faith of the generation of your parents, to be able to resist forcefully and with determination the challenges and temptations of this time. You have need of divine help, if you do not want your faith to dry up as a dewdrop in the sun, if you do not want to succumb to the temptations of consumerism, if you do not want your love to be drowned in pornography, if you do not want to betray the weak and the victims of abuse and violence.

If you dedicate yourselves with passion to the study of the catechism, I would like to give you yet a last counsel: You all know in what way the community of believers has been wounded in recent times by the attacks of evil, by the penetration of sin in the interior, in fact in the heart of the Church. Do not take this as a pretext to flee from God's presence; you yourselves are the Body of Christ, the Church! Carry intact the fire of your love in this Church every time that men have obscured her face. "Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord" (Romans 12:11).

When Israel was in the darkest point of its history, God called to the rescue no great and esteemed persons, but a youth called Jeremiah; Jeremiah felt invested with too great a mission: "Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth!" (Jeremiah 1:6). But God did not let himself be misled: "Do not say, 'I am only a youth'; for to all to whom I send you you shall go, and whatever I command you you shall speak" (Jeremiah 1:7).

I bless you and pray every day for all of you.

Benedict PP. XVI

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's World Youth Day Message
"Good Teacher, What Must I Do to Inherit Eternal Life?"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 15, 2010 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI wrote for the 25th World Youth Day, which will be celebrated Palm Sunday, March 28, at the diocesan level.

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Dear Friends,

This year we observe the 25th anniversary of the institution of World Youth Day, desired by the Venerable John Paul II as an annual meeting of believing young people of the whole world. It was a prophetic initiative that has borne abundant fruits, enabling new generations of Christians to come together, to listen to the Word of God, to discover the beauty of the Church and to live experiences of faith that have led many to give themselves totally to Christ.

The present 25th Youth Day represents a stage toward the next World Youth meeting, which will take place in August 2011 in Madrid, where I hope a great number of you will live this event of grace.

To prepare ourselves for such a celebration, I would like to propose to you some reflections on this year's theme: "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17), treating the evangelical episode of Jesus' meeting with the rich young man, a topic already addressed in 1985 by Pope John Paul II in a most beautiful Letter, addressed for the first time to young people.

1. Jesus Meets a Young Man

And as he [Jesus] was setting out on his journey," recounts the Gospel of St. Mark, "a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother."

And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth." And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions" (Mark 10:17-22).

This account expresses effectively Jesus' great attention to youth, to you, to your expectations, your hopes, and shows how great his desire is to meet with you personally and open a dialogue with each one of you. In fact, Christ interrupts his journey to respond to his interlocutor's question, manifesting full availability to that young man, who was moved by an ardent desire to speak with the "good Teacher," to learn from him how to follow the way of life. With this evangelical passage, my Predecessor wished to exhort each one of you to "develop your own conversation with Christ -- a conversation that is of fundamental and essential importance for a young man (Letter to Young People, No. 2).

2. Jesus Looking Upon Him Loved Him

In the evangelical account, St. Mark stresses how "Jesus looking upon him loved him" (cf. Mark 10-21). In the Lord's look is the heart of the very special encounter and of all the Christian experience. In fact, Christianity is not primarily a morality, but experience of Jesus Christ, who loves us personally, young and old, poor and rich; he loves us even when we turn our back to him.

Commenting on the scene, Pope John Paul II added, turning to young people: "I hope you will experience such a look! I hope you will experience the truth that he, the Christ, keeps for you with love!" (Letter to Young People, No. 7). A love, manifested on the cross in such a full and total way, that it made St. Paul write with amazement: "who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). "The awareness that the Father has always loved us in his Son, that Christ loves every one and always," writes, again, Pope John Paul II, "becomes a firm point of support for the whole of our human existence" (Letter to Young People , No. 7), and enables us to overcome all trials: the discovery of our sins, suffering, discouragement.

In this love is found the source of the whole of Christian life and the fundamental reason of evangelization: If we have truly encountered Jesus, we cannot do other than witness him to those who have not yet crossed his look!

3. The Discovery of the Plan of Life

In the young man of the Gospel, we can perceive a very similar condition to that of each one of you. You are also rich in qualities, energies, dreams, hopes: Resources that you possess in abundance! Your very age constitutes a great richness, not only for you, but also for others, for the Church and for the world.

The rich young man asks Jesus: "What must I do?" The stage of life in which you are immersed is a time of discovery: of the gifts that God has lavished on you and of your responsibilities. It is, moreover, a time of fundamental choices to build your plan of life. It is the moment, therefore, to ask yourselves about the authentic meaning of existence and to ask yourselves: "Am I satisfied with my life? Is there something lacking?"

As the young man of the Gospel, perhaps you also live situations of instability, of disturbance or of suffering, which lead you to aspire to a life that is not mediocre, and to ask yourselves: In what does a successful life consist? What must I do? What might be my plan of life? "What must I do, for my life to have full value and full meaning?" (Ibid., No. 3).

Do not be afraid to address these questions! Far from overwhelming you, they express great aspirations, which are present in your heart. Hence, they are to be listened to. They await answers that are not superficial, but able to satisfy your authentic expectations of life and happiness.

To discover the plan of life that could render you fully happy, listen to God, who has a plan of love for each one of you. With trust, ask him: "Lord, what is your plan of Creator and Father for my life? What is your will? I want to fulfill it." Be sure that he will respond. Do not be afraid of his answer! "God is greater than our heart and knows everything!" (1 John 3:20).

4. Come and follow me!

Jesus invited the rich young man to go far beyond the satisfaction of his aspirations and of his plans, he says to him: "Come and follow me!" The Christian vocation springs from a proposal of love of the Lord and can be realized only thanks to a response of love: "Jesus invites his disciples to the total gift of their life, without human calculation or benefit, with a trust without reservations in God. The saints accepted this exacting invitation, and with humble docility followed the crucified and risen Christ. Their perfection, in the logic of faith at times humanly incomprehensible, consists in no longer putting oneself at the center, but in choosing to go against the current living according to the Gospel" (Benedict XVI, Homily at Canonization Mass, L'Osservatore Romano, 12-13, October 2009, p. 6).

On the example of so many disciples of Christ, you also, dear friends, accept with joy the invitation to follow, to live intensely and fruitfully in this world. With Baptism, in fact, he calls each one to follow him with concrete actions, to love him above all things and to serve him in brothers. The rich young man, unfortunately, did not accept Jesus' invitation and left saddened. He did not find the courage to detach himself from his material goods to find the greatest good proposed by Jesus.

The sadness of the rich young man of the Gospel is that which is born in the heart of each one when one does not have the courage to follow Christ, to make the right choice. However, it is never too late to respond to him!

Jesus never tires of turning his look of love and of calling to be his disciples, but He proposes to some a more radical choice. In this Year for Priests, I would like to exhort boys and girls to be attentive if the Lord invites to a great gift, in the way of the Ministerial Priesthood, and to make oneself available to accept with generosity and enthusiasm this sign of special predilection, undertaking with a priest or spiritual director the necessary path of discernment. Do not be afraid, then, dear boys and girls, if the Lord calls you to the religious, monastic, missionary life or one of special consecration: He is able to give profound joy to one who responds with courage!

Moreover, I invite all those who feel the vocation to marriage to accept it with faith, committing themselves to lay the solid base to live a great love, faithful and open to the gift of life, which is richness and grace for society and for the Church.

5. Oriented to Eternal Life

"What must I do to inherit eternal life?" This question of the young man of the Gospel seems far from the concerns of many contemporary young people, because, as my predecessor observed, "are we not the generation, whose horizon of existence the world and temporal progress fill completely? (Letter to Young People, No. 5). But the question on "eternal life" flowers in particularly painful moments of existence, when we suffer the loss of a close person or when we live the experience of failure.

But what is the "eternal life" to which the young man refers? It is illustrated by Jesus when, turning to his disciples, he affirms: "I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you" (John 16:22). They are words that indicate an exalted proposal of endless happiness, of joy of being filled with divine love forever.

To ask oneself about the definitive future that awaits each one of us gives full meaning to existence, because it orients the plan of life toward horizons that are not limited and passing, but ample and profound, which lead to loving the world, so loved by God himself, to dedicate oneself to its development, but always with the liberty and joy born from faith and hope. They are horizons that help not to absolutize earthly realities, seeing that God prepares a greater prospect for us, and to repeat with St. Augustine: "We desire together the heavenly homeland, we sigh for the heavenly homeland, we feel ourselves pilgrims down here" (Commentary on St. John's Gospel, Homily 35, 9). Keeping his gaze fixed on eternal life, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who died in 1925 at the age of 24, said: "I want to live and not just get along!" and on the photo of an ascent sent to a friend, he wrote: "Toward on high," alluding to Christian perfection, but also to eternal life.

Dear young people, I exhort you not to forget this prospect of your plan of life: We are called to eternity. God has created us to be with Him, forever. This will help you to give full meaning to your choices and to give quality to your existence.

6. The Commandments, the Way of Authentic Love

Jesus reminds the rich young man of the Ten Commandments, as necessary conditions to "inherit eternal life." They are essential points of reference to live in love, to clearly distinguish good from evil and build a solid and lasting plan of life. Jesus also asks you if you know the commandments, if you are concerned to form your conscience according to the divine law and if you will put it into practice.

They certainly are questions that go against the current of the present-day mentality, which proposes a liberty disconnected from values, rules, objective norms and invites to reject every limitation to desires of the moment. But this type of proposal instead of leading to true liberty, leads man to become a slave of himself, of his immediate desires, of idols such as power, money, unbridled pleasure and the seductions of the world, rendering him incapable of following his original vocation to love.

God gives us the commandments because he wants to educate us to true liberty, because he wants to build with us a Kingdom of love, justice and peace. To listen to them and to put them into practice does not mean to be alienated, but to find the path of authentic liberty and love, because the commandments do not limit happiness, but indicate how to find it. At the beginning of his dialogue with the rich young man, Jesus reminds him that the law given by God is good because "God is good."

7. We Have Need of You

One who lives the condition of youth finds himself facing many problems derived from unemployment, the lack of sure ideal references and of concrete prospects for the future. At times one can have the impression of being impotent in face of the present crises and drifts. Despite the difficulties, do not let yourselves be discouraged and do not give up your dreams! Instead, cultivate in your heart great desires of fraternity, justice and peace. The future is in your hands, because the gifts and riches that the Lord has enclosed in the heart of each one of you, molded by the encounter with Christ, can bring authentic hope to the world! It is faith in his love that, rendering you strong and generous, will give you the courage to address with serenity the journey of life and to assume family and professional responsibilities. Be committed to build your future through serious courses of personal formation and study, to serve the common good in a competent and generous way.

In my encyclical letter "Caritas in Veritate" on integral human development, I listed some of the great present challenges, which are urgent and essential for the life of this world: The use of the resources of the earth and respect for the ecology, the just division of goods and the control of financial mechanisms, solidarity with poor countries in the ambit of the human family, the struggle against hunger in the world, the promotion of the dignity of human labor, service to the culture of life, the building of peace between peoples, the interreligious dialogue, the good use of the social means of communication.

They are challenges to which you are called to respond to build a more just and fraternal world. They are challenges that call for an exacting and passionate plan of life, into which you put all your richness according the plan that God has for each one of you. It is not a question of carrying out heroic or extraordinary gestures, but of acting by putting to good use one's talents and possibilities, committed to constantly progress in faith and love.

In this Year for Priests, I invite you to know the life of the saints, in particular that of holy priests. You will see that God guided them and that they found their way day after day, precisely in faith, in hope and in love. Christ calls each one of you to be committed with him and to assume your responsibilities to build a civilization of love. If you follow his Word, your path will also be illumined and will lead you to lofty goals, which give joy and full meaning to life.

May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, accompany you with her protection. I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and bless you with great affection.

From the Vatican, Feb. 22, 2010



Papal Message to Madrid Youth
"Go in the Footsteps of Christ"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 6, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Monday to young people of the Archdiocese of Madrid, who are in Rome to receive the cross for World Youth Day 2011.

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Dear Friends:

It is a very great joy for me to receive in this audience such a numerous group from Madrid and Spain, who have come to collect the youth cross, which will be taken to several cities until World Youth Day in Madrid, in the year 2011. I cordially greet the archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, who presides over this pilgrimage, the general coordinator of Madrid, Auxiliary Bishop César Augusto Franco Martínez, and the other bishops, priests and catechists who have wished to be here. I especially greet you with affection, dear young people, who, on taking the cross, confess your faith in him who loves you without measure, the Lord Jesus, whose Paschal mystery we celebrate in these holy days. As I said on another occasion, "faith, in its way, needs to see and touch. The encounter with the cross, which is touched and carried, is transformed into an interior encounter with Him who died on the cross for us. The encounter with the cross awakens in the depth of young people the memory of the God who willed to become man and suffer with us" (To the Members of the Roman Curia, Dec. 22, 2008). I am happy to know that this cross you have received will be taken in procession on Good Friday through the streets of Madrid to be acclaimed and venerated.

Therefore, I encourage you to discover in the cross the infinite measure of Christ's love, and thus be able to say, with St. Paul: "I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). Yes, dear young people, Christ gave himself for each one of you and loves you in a unique and personal way. Respond to Christ's love by offering him your life with love. In this way, the preparation for World Youth Day, whose works you have begun with much hope and dedication, will be recompensed with the fruits intended by these Days: to renew and strengthen the experience of the encounter with Christ who died and rose from the dead for us.

Go in the footsteps of Christ. He is your end, your way and also your prize. In the motto I chose for Madrid's Day, the Apostle Paul invites us to walk "rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith" (Colossians 2:7). Life is a journey, certainly. But it is not an uncertain journey without a fixed destiny; it leads to Christ, the end of human life and history. On this journey you will meet with Him who gave his life for love, and opens to you the doors of eternal life. I invite you, therefore, to be formed in the faith that gives meaning to your life and strengthens your convictions, so as to be able to remain firm in the difficulties of each day. Moreover, I exhort you, on your journey to Christ, to be able to attract your young friends, your study and work companions, so that they too will know him and confess him as Lord of their lives. To do this, let the force from on high, which is within you, the Holy Spirit, manifest himself with his immense attractiveness. Young people of today need to discover the new life that comes from God, to be satiated by the truth that has its source in Christ who died and was resurrected and who the Church has received as a treasure for all men.

Dear young people, this time of preparation for the youth day of Madrid is, in addition, an extraordinary occasion to experience the grace of belonging to the Church, Body of Christ. World Youth Days manifest the dynamism of the Church and her eternal youth. He who loves Christ, loves the Church with the same passion, as she enables us to live in a close relationship with the Lord. Hence, cultivate the initiatives that enable young people to feel they are members of the Church, in full communion with their pastors and with the Successor of Peter. Pray in common, opening the doors of your parishes, associations and movements so that all can feel at home in the Church, in which they are loved with the very love of God. Celebrate and live your faith with immense joy, which is a gift of the Spirit. In this way your hearts and your friends will prepare to celebrate the great feast that youth day is and we will all experience a new epiphany of the youth of the Church.

In these very beautiful days of Holy Week, which we began yesterday, I encourage you to contemplate Christ in the mysteries of his Passion, Death and Resurrection. In them you will find what surpasses all wisdom and knowledge, namely, the love of God manifested in Christ. Learn from him, who did not come "to be served but to serve, and to give his life as ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). This is the style of Christ's love, marked with the sign of the glorious cross, in which Christ is exalted, in the sight of all, with his open heart, so that the world can look and see, through his perfect humanity, the love that saves us. Thus the cross becomes the very sign of life, as on it Christ overcomes sin and death through the total giving of himself. That is why we must embrace and adore the cross of the Lord, make it our own, accept its weight as the Cyrenean to participate in the only thing that can redeem the whole of humanity (cf. Colossians 1:24). In baptism you were marked with the cross of Christ and you belong to him totally. Make yourselves ever more worthy of it and never be ashamed of this supreme sign of love.

With this profound Christian attitude, you will carry forward the works of preparation for World Youth Day with success and fruitfulness because, as St. Paul says, we can do all things in him who strengthens us (cf. Philippians 4:13). And, manifested to us in Christ crucified is the strength and wisdom of God (cf. 1 Colossians 1:24). Let yourselves be invaded by this strength and wisdom, communicate it to others and, under the protection of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, prepare the World Youth Day with dedication and joy which will make of Madrid a place radiant of faith and life, where young people from the whole world celebrate Christ with enthusiasm.

Take my affectionate greeting to your families, friends and companions who have been unable to come today, whom I also bless from my heart.

Happy Easter

Thank you very much.


Papal Message for Youth Day '09
"Jesus Also Wants to Encounter Each One of You"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's message for World Youth Day 2009, to be celebrated at the diocesan level this Palm Sunday. The message was released today.

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"We have set our hope on the living God" (1 Tim 4:10)

My dear friends,

Next Palm Sunday we shall celebrate the twenty-fourth World Youth Day at the diocesan level. As we prepare for this annual event, I recall with deep gratitude to the Lord the meeting held in Sydney in July last year. It was a most memorable encounter, during which the Holy Spirit renewed the lives of countless young people who had come together from all over the world. The joy of celebration and spiritual enthusiasm experienced during those few days was an eloquent sign of the presence of the Spirit of Christ. Now we are journeying towards the international gathering due to take place in Madrid in 2011, which will have as its theme the words of the Apostle Paul: "Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith" (cf. Col 2:7). As we look forward to that global youth meeting, let us undertake a path of preparation together. We take as our text for the year 2009 a saying of Saint Paul: "We have set our hope on the living God" (1 Tim 4:10), while in 2010 we will reflect on the question put to Jesus by the rich young man: "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mk 10:17)

Youth, a time of hope

In Sydney, our attention was focussed upon what the Holy Spirit is saying to believers today, and in particular to you, my dear young people. During the closing Mass, I urged you to let yourselves be shaped by him in order to be messengers of divine love, capable of building a future of hope for all humanity. The question of hope is truly central to our lives as human beings and our mission as Christians, especially in these times. We are all aware of the need for hope, not just any kind of hope, but a firm and reliable hope, as I wanted to emphasize in the Encyclical Spe Salvi. Youth is a special time of hope because it looks to the future with a whole range of expectations. When we are young we cherish ideals, dreams and plans. Youth is the time when decisive choices concerning the rest of our lives come to fruition. Perhaps this is why it is the time of life when fundamental questions assert themselves strongly: Why am I here on earth? What is the meaning of life? What will my life be like? And again: How can I attain happiness? Why is there suffering, illness and death? What lies beyond death? These are questions that become insistent when we are faced with obstacles that sometimes seem insurmountable: difficulties with studies, unemployment, family arguments, crises in friendships or in building good loving relationships, illness or disability, lack of adequate resources as a result of the present widespread economic and social crisis. We then ask ourselves: where can I obtain and how can I keep alive the flame of hope burning in my heart?

In search of "the great hope"

Experience shows that personal qualities and material goods are not enough to guarantee the hope which the human spirit is constantly seeking. As I wrote in the Encyclical Spe Salvi, politics, science, technology, economics and all other material resources are not of themselves sufficient to provide the great hope to which we all aspire. This hope "can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain" (no. 31). This is why one of the main consequences of ignoring God is the evident loss of direction that marks our societies, resulting in loneliness and violence, discontent and loss of confidence that can often lead to despair. The word of God issues a warning that is loud and clear: "Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes" (Jer 17:5-6).

The crisis of hope is more likely to affect the younger generations. In socio-cultural environments with few certainties, values or firm points of reference, they find themselves facing difficulties that seem beyond their strength. My dear young friends, I have in mind so many of your contemporaries who have been wounded by life. They often suffer from personal immaturity caused by dysfunctional family situations, by permissive and libertarian elements in their education, and by difficult and traumatic experience. For some - unfortunately a significant number - the almost unavoidable way out involves an alienating escape into dangerous and violent behaviour, dependence on drugs and alcohol, and many other such traps for the unwary. Yet, even for those who find themselves in difficult situations, having been led astray by bad role models, the desire for true love and authentic happiness is not extinguished. But how can we speak of this hope to those young people? We know that it is in God alone that a human person finds true fulfilment. The main task for us all is that of a new evangelization aimed at helping younger generations to rediscover the true face of God, who is Love. To you young people, who are in search of a firm hope, I address the very words that Saint Paul wrote to the persecuted Christians in Rome at that time: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom 15:13). During this Jubilee Year dedicated to the Apostle of the Gentiles on the occasion of the two thousandth anniversary of his birth, let us learn from him how to become credible witnesses of Christian hope.

Saint Paul, witness of hope

When Paul found himself immersed in difficulties and trials of various kinds, he wrote to his faithful disciple Timothy: "We have set our hope on the living God" (1 Tim 4:10). How did this hope take root in him? In order to answer that question we must go back to his encounter with the Risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. At that time, Saul was a young person like you in his early twenties, a follower of the Law of Moses and determined to fight with every means, and even to kill those he regarded as God's enemies (cf. Acts 9:1). While on his way to Damascus to arrest the followers of Christ, he was blinded by a mysterious light and he heard himself called by name: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" He fell to the ground, and asked: "Who are you, Lord?" The reply came: "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" (Acts 9:3-5). After that encounter, Paul's life changed radically. He received Baptism and became an Apostle of the Gospel. On the road to Damascus, he was inwardly transformed by the Divine Love he had met in the person of Jesus Christ. He would later write: "The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). From being a persecutor, he became a witness and a missionary. He founded Christian communities in Asia Minor and Greece, and travelled thousands of miles amid all kinds of perils, culminating in his martyrdom in Rome. All this for love of Christ.

The great hope is in Christ

For Paul, hope is not simply an ideal or sentiment, but a living person: Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Profoundly imbued with this certainty, he could write to Timothy: "We have set our hope on the living God" (1 Tim 4:10). The "living God" is the Risen Christ present in our world. He is the true hope: the Christ who lives with us and in us and who calls us to share in his eternal life. If we are not alone, if he is with us, even more, if he is our present and our future, why be afraid? A Christian's hope is therefore to desire "the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1817).

The way towards the great hope

Just as he once encountered the young Paul, Jesus also wants to encounter each one of you, my dear young people. Indeed, even before we desire it, such an encounter is ardently desired by Jesus Christ. But perhaps some of you might ask me: How can I meet him today? Or rather, in what way does he approach me? The Church teaches us that the desire to encounter the Lord is already a fruit of his grace. When we express our faith in prayer, we find him even in times of darkness because he offers himself to us. Persevering prayer opens the heart to receive him, as Saint Augustine explains: "Our Lord and God ... wants our desire to be exercised in prayer, thus enabling us to grasp what he is preparing to give" (Letter 130:8,17). Prayer is the gift of the Spirit that makes us men and women of hope, and our prayer keeps the world open to God (cf. Spe Salvi, 34).

Make space for prayer in your lives! To pray alone is good, although it is even more beautiful and fruitful to pray together, because the Lord assured us he would be present wherever two or three are gathered in his name (cf. Mt 18:20). There are many ways to become acquainted with him. There are experiences, groups and movements, encounters and courses in which to learn to pray and thus grow in the experience of faith. Take part in your parish liturgies and be abundantly nourished by the word of God and your active participation in the Sacraments. As you know, the summit and centre of the life and mission of every believer and every Christian community is the Eucharist, the sacrament of salvation in which Christ becomes present and gives his Body and Blood as spiritual food for eternal life. A truly ineffable mystery! It is around the Eucharist that the Church comes to birth and grows - that great family of Christians which we enter through Baptism, and in which we are constantly renewed through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The baptised, through Confirmation, are then confirmed in the Holy Spirit so as to live as authentic friends and witnesses of Christ. The Sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony enable them to accomplish their apostolic duties in the Church and in the world. Finally, the Sacrament of the Sick grants us an experience of divine consolation in illness and suffering.

Acting in accordance with Christian hope

If you find your sustenance in Christ, my dear young people, and if you live profoundly in him as did the Apostle Paul, you will not be able to resist speaking about him and making him known and loved by many of your friends and contemporaries. Be his faithful disciples, and in that way you will be able to help form Christian communities that are filled with love, like those described in the Acts of the Apostles. The Church depends on you for this demanding mission. Do not be discouraged by the difficulties and trials you encounter. Be patient and persevering so as to overcome the natural youthful tendency to rush ahead and to want everything immediately.

My dear friends, follow the example of Paul and be witnesses to the Risen Christ! Make Christ known, among your own age group and beyond, to those who are in search of "the great hope" that would give meaning to their lives. If Jesus has become your hope, communicate this to others with your joy and your spiritual, apostolic and social engagement. Let Christ dwell within you, and having placed all your faith and trust in him, spread this hope around you. Make choices that demonstrate your faith. Show that you understand the risks of idolizing money, material goods, career and success, and do not allow yourselves to be attracted by these false illusions. Do not yield to the rationale of selfish interests. Cultivate love of neighbour and try to put yourselves and your human talents and professional abilities at the service of the common good and of truth, always prepared to "make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet 3:15). True Christians are never sad, even if they have to face trials of various kinds, because the presence of Jesus is the secret of their joy and peace.

Mary, Mother of hope

May Saint Paul be your example on this path of apostolic life. He nourished his life of constant faith and hope by looking to Abraham, of whom he wrote in the Letter to the Romans: "Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become the father of many nations" (Rom 4:18). Following in the footsteps of the people of hope - composed of prophets and saints of every age - we continue to advance towards the fulfilment of the Kingdom, and on this spiritual path we are accompanied by the Virgin Mary, Mother of Hope. She who incarnated the hope of Israel, who gave the world its Saviour, and who remained at the foot of the Cross with steadfast hope, is our model and our support. Most of all, Mary intercedes for us and leads us through the darkness of our trials to the radiant dawn of an encounter with the Risen Christ. I would like to conclude this message, my dear young friends, with a beautiful and well-known prayer by Saint Bernard that was inspired by one of Mary's titles, Stella Maris, Star of the Sea: "You who amid the constant upheavals of this life find yourself more often tossed about by storms than standing on firm ground, do not turn your eyes from the brightness of this Star, if you would not be overwhelmed by boisterous waves. If the winds of temptations rise, if you fall among the rocks of tribulations, look up at the Star, call on Mary ... In dangers, in distress, in perplexities, think on Mary, call on Mary ... Following her, you will never go astray; when you implore her aid, you will never yield to despair; thinking on her, you will not err; under her patronage you will never wander; beneath her protection you will not fear; she being your guide, you will not weary; with her assistance, you will arrive safely in the port" (Homilies in Praise of the Virgin Mother, 2:17).

Mary, Star of the Sea, we ask you to guide the young people of the whole world to an encounter with your Divine Son Jesus. Be the celestial guardian of their fidelity to the Gospel and of their hope.

Dear young friends, be assured that I remember all of you every day in my prayers. I give my heartfelt blessing to you and to all who are dear to you.

From the Vatican, 22 February 2009

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Address to Genoa's Youth
"Being Young Implies Being Good and Generous"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 5, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave May 18 to a meeting with youth in Genoa's Piazza Matteotti, during his two-day pastoral visit to the Italian region of Liguria.
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Dear Young People,

Unfortunately I am being pursued by the rain in these days but let us take it as a sign of blessing, of fertility for the land, as well as a symbol of the Holy Spirit who comes and renews the earth, even the arid terrain of our souls. You are the youth of Genoa! I am happy to see you here! I embrace you with the Heart of Christ! I thank the two representatives who have acted as your "spokespersons".

And I thank you all for your work of preparation, not only external but above all spiritual: with the Eucharistic adoration and the prayer vigil you have really reached out to the Holy Spirit and, in the Spirit, you enter the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity that we are celebrating today. Thank you for this journey you have made! And I thank you for the enthusiasm that must always be a feature of your soul, not only in the years of your youth, full of expectations and dreams, but always, even when the years of youth are over and you will be called to live other seasons. But we must all remain young in heart!

It is beautiful to be young and today everyone wants to be young, to stay young, and they disguise themselves as young, even if the time of youth has passed, visibly passed. And I wonder - I have thought about it - why is it beautiful to be young? What is the reason for the dream of eternal youth? It seems to me that there are two crucial elements: youth still has the whole future before it. Everything is in the future, a time of hope. The future is full of promises. To be sincere, we must say that for many people the future is also dark, full of threats. One wonders: will I find a job? Will I find somewhere to live? Will I find love? What will my true future be? And in the face of these threats, the future can also appear as a great void.

Today, therefore, many desire to stop time for fear of a future in emptiness. They want to enjoy all the beauties of life instantly - and in this way the oil in the lamp is consumed just as life is beginning. Thus it is important to choose the true promises that pave the way to the future, even with sacrifices. Those who have chosen God still have before them in old age a future without end and without threats. It is therefore vital to choose well, not to destroy the future.

And the first and fundamental choice must be God, God revealed in the Son Jesus Christ, and in the light of this choice which at the same time offers us company on the way, trustworthy company that never abandons me, in the light of this choice criteria are found to make the other necessary choices. Being young implies being good and generous and once again true goodness is Jesus himself, that Jesus whom you know or whom your heart is seeking: he is the Friend who never betrays, faithful to the point of giving his life on the Cross. Surrender to his love!

As you have printed on the tee-shirts made for this Meeting, "scioglietevi" [soften] before Jesus for he alone can melt your anxieties and fears and fulfil your expectations. He gave his life for us, for each one of us. Could he ever betray your trust? Could he lead you on the wrong paths? His are the ways of life, the ways that lead to the pastures of the soul, even if they rise steeply and are daunting. It is the spiritual life that I am asking you to cultivate, dear friends. Jesus said: "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (Jn 15: 5). Jesus comes to the point, he is clear and direct. Everyone understands him and takes a stand. The life of the soul is the encounter with him, the actual Face of God; it is silent, persevering prayer, it is sacramental life, it is the Gospel meditated upon, it is spiritual guidance, it is cordial membership in the Church, in your Ecclesial Communities.

Yet how can one love, how can one enter into friendship with someone unknown? Knowledge is an incentive to love and love stimulates knowledge. This is how it is with Christ too. To find love with Christ, to truly find him as the companion of our lives, we must first of all be acquainted with him.

Like the two disciples who followed him after hearing the words of John the Baptist and asked him timidly, "Rabbi, where are you staying?", they wanted to know him better. It was Jesus himself, talking to his disciples who made the distinction: "Who do people say that I am", referring to those who knew him from afar, so to speak, by hear-say, and "Who do you say that I am?", referring to those who knew him personally, having lived with him and having truly penetrated his private life, to the point of witnessing his prayer, his dialogue with the Father. Thus, it is also important for us not to reduce ourselves merely to the superficiality of the many who have heard something about him - that he was an important figure, etc. - but to enter into a personal relationship to know him truly. And this demands knowledge of Scripture, especially of the Gospels where the Lord speaks to us. These words are not always easy, but in entering into them, entering into dialogue, knocking at the door of words, saying to the Lord, "Let me in", we truly find words of eternal life, living words for today, as timely as they were then and as they will be in the future.

This conversation with the Lord in Scripture must always be a conversation that is not only individual but communal, in the great communion of the Church where Christ is ever present, in the communion of the liturgy, of the very personal encounter with the Holy Eucharist and of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where the Lord says to me "I forgive you". And another very important step to take is to help the poor in need, to make time for others. There are many dimensions for entering into knowledge of Jesus; also, of course the lives of saints. You have plenty of Saints here in Liguria, in Genoa, who help us discover the true Face of Jesus. Only in this way, by being personally acquainted with Jesus, can we also communicate this friendship to others. We can overcome indifference. Because even if it seems invincible - in fact, indifference sometimes appears not to need a God - in fact, everyone knows that something is missing in his life. Only after discovering Jesus do we realize "this is what I was waiting for". And, the truer a friend of Jesus we are, the better able we are to open our hearts to others so that they too may become truly young and have a great future before them.

At the end of our Meeting I shall have the joy of presenting the Gospel to some of you as a sign of a missionary mandate. Dear young people, venture forth into the milieus of life, your parishes, the most difficult districts, the streets! Proclaim Christ the Lord, the hope of the world. The further people drift from God, their Source, the more they lose themselves, the more difficult human coexistence becomes and the more society crumbles. Stay united to one another, help one another to live and to increase in faith and in Christian life to be daring witnesses of the Lord. Be united but not closed. Be humble but not fearful. Be simple but non ingenuous. Be thoughtful but not complicated. Enter into dialogue with all, but be yourselves. Remain in communion with your Pastors: they are ministers of the Gospel, of the Divine Eucharist, of God's forgiveness. They are fathers and friends for you, your companions on the way. You need them and they - we all - need you.

If each one of you, dear young people, remains united to Christ and to the Church, he or she can do great things. This is the hope I leave you to carry out. I say goodbye until Sydney to those of you who have enrolled to go to the World Meeting in July, and I extend it to all, because anyone will be able to follow the event from here as well. I know that in those days the dioceses will be organizing some special community events so that there will truly be a new Pentecost for the young people of the whole world. I entrust you to the Virgin Mary, a model of availability and of humble courage in accepting the Lord's mission. Learn from her to make your life a "yes" to God! In this way Jesus will come to dwell within you and you will take him joyfully to all. With my Blessing!


Papal Address to Youth (Brazil, May 2007)
"I Send You Out on the Great Mission of Evangelizing"

PACAEMBU, Brazil, MAY 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered to youth, during the first full day of his visit to Brazil.

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My dear young friends!

"If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor … and come, follow me" (Mt 19:21).

1. I was particularly eager to include a meeting with you during this my first journey to Latin America. I have come to inaugurate the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America which, according to my wish, will take place at Aparecida, here in Brazil, at the Shrine of Our Lady. It is she who leads us to the feet of Jesus so that we can learn his teachings about the Kingdom, and it is she who stirs us up to be his missionaries so that the people of this "Continent of Hope" may have full life in him.

In their General Assembly last year, your Bishops here in Brazil reflected on the theme of the evangelization of youth and they placed a document into your hands. They asked you to receive that document and add your own reflections to it in the course of the year. At their most recent Assembly, the Bishops returned to the theme, enriched now by your collaboration, in the hope that the reflections and guidelines proposed therein would serve as a stimulus and a beacon for your journey. The words offered by the Archbishop of São Paulo and the Director of Pastoral Care for Young People, both of whom I thank, confirm the spirit that moves your hearts.

While flying over the land of Brazil yesterday evening, I was already anticipating our encounter here in the Stadium of Pacaembu, anxious to extend to all of you a warm Brazilian embrace and to share with you the sentiments which I carry in the depths of my heart, and which are very appropriately indicated to us in today's Gospel.

I have always felt a very special joy at these encounters. I remember especially the Twentieth World Youth Day at which I was able to preside two years ago in Germany. Some of you gathered here today were also present! It is an emotional memory for me on account of the abundant fruits of the Lord's grace poured out upon those who were there. Among the many fruits which I could point to, there is little doubt that the first was the exemplary sense of fraternity that stood as a clear witness to the Church's perennial vitality throughout the world.

2. For this reason, my dear friends, I am certain that today the same impressions I received in Germany will be renewed here. In 1991, during his visit to Mato Grosso, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, of venerable memory, said that "youth are the first protagonists of the third millennium … they are the ones who will be charged with the destiny of this new phase in human history" (16 October 1991). Today, I feel moved to make the same observation regarding all of you.

The Christian life you lead in numerous parishes and small ecclesial communities, in universities, colleges and schools, and most of all, in places of work both in the city and in the countryside, is undoubtedly pleasing to the Lord. But it is necessary to go even further. We can never say "enough", because the love of God is infinite, and the Lord asks us -- or better --requires us to open our hearts wider so that there will be room for even more love, goodness, and understanding for our brothers and sisters, and for the problems which concern not only the human community, but also the effective preservation and protection of the natural environment of which we are all a part. "Our forests have more life": do not allow this flame of hope which your National Hymn places on your lips to die out. The devastation of the environment in the Amazon Basin and the threats against the human dignity of peoples living within that region call for greater commitment in the different areas of activity than society tends to recognize.

3. Today I would like to reflect on the text we have just heard from Saint Matthew (cf. 19:16-22). It speaks of a young man who ran to see Jesus. His impatience merits special attention. In this young man I see all of you young people of Brazil and Latin America. You have "run" here from various regions of this Continent for this meeting of ours. You want to listen to the words of Jesus himself -- spoken through the voice of the Pope.

You have a crucial question -- a question that appears in this Gospel -- to put to him. It is the same question posed by the young man who ran to see Jesus: What good deed must I do, to have eternal life? I would like to take a deeper look at this question with you. It has to do with life. A life which -- in all of you -- is exuberant and beautiful. What are you to do with it? How can you live it to the full?

We see at once that in the very formulation of the question, the "here" and "now" are not enough; to put it another way, we cannot limit our life within the confines of space and time, however much we might try to broaden their horizons. Life transcends them. In other words: we want to live, not die. We have a sense of something telling us that life is eternal and that we must apply ourselves to reach it. In short, it rests in our hands and is dependent, in a certain way, on our own decision.

The question in the Gospel does not regard only the future. It does not regard only a question about what will happen after death. On the contrary, it exists as a task in the present, in the "here" and "now", which must guarantee authenticity and consequently the future. In short, the young man's question raises the issue of life's meaning. It can therefore be formulated in this way: what must I do so that my life has meaning? How must I live so as to reap the full fruits of life? Or again: what must I do so that my life is not wasted?

Jesus alone can give us the answer, because he alone can guarantee us eternal life. He alone, therefore, can show us the meaning of this present life and give it fullness.

4. But before giving his response, Jesus asks about a very important aspect of the young man's enquiry: why do you ask me about what is good? In this question, we find the key to the answer. This young man perceives that Jesus is good and that he is a teacher -- a teacher who does not deceive. We are here because we have the very same conviction: Jesus is good. It may be that we do not know how to explain fully the reason for this perception, but it undoubtedly draws us to him and opens us up to his teaching: he is a good teacher. To recognize the good means to love. And whoever loves -- to use a felicitous expression of Saint John -- knows God (cf. 1 Jn 4:7). The young man in the Gospel has perceived God in Jesus Christ.

Jesus assures us that God alone is good. To be open to goodness means to receive God. In this way, he invites us to see God in all things and in everything that happens, even where most people see only God's absence. When we see the beauty of creation and recognize the goodness present there, it is impossible not to believe in God and to experience his saving and reassuring presence. If we came to see all the good that exists in the world -- and moreover, experience the good that comes from God himself -- we would never cease to approach him, praise him, and thank him. He continually fills us with joy and good things. His joy is our strength.

But we can only know in an imperfect, partial way. To understand what is good, we need help, which the Church offers us on many occasions, especially through catechesis. Jesus himself shows what is good for us by giving us the first element in his catechesis: "If you would enter life, keep the commandments" (Mt 19:17). He begins with the knowledge that the young man has surely already acquired from his family and from the synagogue: he knows the commandments. These lead to life, which means that they guarantee our authenticity. They are the great signs which lead us along the right path. Whoever keeps the commandments is on the way that leads to God.

It is not enough, however, simply to know them. Witness is even more important than knowledge; or rather, it is applied knowledge. The commandments are not imposed upon us from without; they do not diminish our freedom. On the contrary: they are strong internal incentives leading us to act in a certain way. At the heart of them we find both grace and nature, which do not allow us to stay still. We must walk. We are motivated to do something in order fulfil our potential. To find fulfilment through action is, in reality, to become real. To a large extent, from the time of our youth, we are whatever we want to be. We are, so to speak, the work of our own hands.

5. At this point, I turn once more to you, young people, because I want to hear you give the same response that the young man in the Gospel gave: all these I have observed from my youth. The young man in the Gospel was good. He kept the commandments. He was walking along the way of God. Jesus, therefore, gazing at him, loved him. By recognizing that Jesus was good, he showed that he too was good. He had an experience of goodness, and therefore of God. And you, young people of Brazil and Latin America, have you already discovered what is good? Do you follow the Lord's commandments? Have you discovered that this is the one true road to happiness?

These years of your life are the years which will prepare you for your future. Your "tomorrow" depends much on how you are living the "today" of your youth. Stretching out in front of you, my dear young friends, is a life that all of us hope will be long; yet it is only one life, it is unique: do not let it pass it vain; do not squander it. Live it with enthusiasm and with joy, but most of all, with a sense of responsibility.

Many times, we who are pastors feel a sense of trepidation as we take stock of the situation in today's world. We hear talk of the fears of today's youth. These fears reveal an enormous lack of hope: a fear of death, at the very moment when life is blossoming and the young are searching to find how to fulfil their potential; fear of failure, through not having discovered the meaning of life; fear of remaining detached in the face of a disconcerting acceleration of events and communications. We see the high death rate among young people, the threat of violence, the deplorable proliferation of drugs which strike at the deepest roots of youth today. For these reasons, we hear talk of a "lost youth".

But as I gaze at you young people here present -- you who radiate so much joy and enthusiasm -- I see you as Christ sees you: with a gaze of love and trust, in the certainty that you have found the true way. You are the youth of the Church. I send you out, therefore, on the great mission of evangelizing young men and women who have gone astray in this world like sheep without a shepherd. Be apostles of youth. Invite them to walk with you, to have the same experience of faith, hope, and love; to encounter Jesus so that they may feel truly loved, accepted, able to realize their full potential. May they too may discover the sure ways of the commandments, and, by following them, come to God.

You can be the builders of a new society if you seek to put into practice a conduct inspired by universal moral values, but also a personal commitment to a vitally important human and spiritual formation. Men and women who are ill-prepared for the real challenges presented by a correct interpretation of the Christian life in their own surroundings will easily fall prey to all the assaults of materialism and secularism, which are more and more active at all levels.

Be men and women who are free and responsible; make the family a centre that radiates peace and joy; be promoters of life, from its beginning to its natural end; protect the elderly, since they deserve respect and admiration for the good they have done. The Pope also expects young people to seek to sanctify their work, carrying it out with technical skill and diligence, so as to contribute to the progress of all their brothers and sisters, and to shed the light of the Word upon all human activities (cf. Lumen Gentium, 36). But above all, the Pope wants them to set about building a more just and fraternal society, fulfilling their duties towards the State: respecting its laws; not allowing themselves to be swept along by hatred and violence; seeking to be an example of Christian conduct in their professional and social milieu, distinguishing themselves by the integrity of their social and professional relationships. They should remember that excessive ambition for wealth and power leads to corruption of oneself and others; there are no valid motives that would justify attempting to impose one's own worldly aspirations -- economic or political -- through fraud and deceit.

There exists, in the final analysis, an immense panorama of action in which questions of a social, economic and political nature take on particular importance, as long as they draw their inspiration from the Gospel and the social teaching of the Church. This includes building a more just and fraternal society, reconciled and at peace, it includes the commitment to reduce violence, initiatives to promote the fullness of life, the democratic order and the common good and especially initiatives aimed at eliminating certain forms of discrimination existing in Latin American societies: avoiding exclusion, for the sake of mutual enrichment.

Above all, have great respect for the institution of the sacrament of Matrimony. There cannot be true domestic happiness unless, at the same time, there is fidelity between spouses. Marriage is an institution of natural law, which has been raised by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament; it is a great gift that God has given to mankind: respect it and honour it. At the same time, God calls you to respect one another when you fall in love and become engaged, since conjugal life, reserved by divine ordinance to married couples, will bring happiness and peace only to the extent that you are able to build your future hopes upon chastity, both within and outside marriage. I repeat here to all of you that "eros tends to rise . . . towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing" (Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est , 5). To put it briefly, it requires a spirit of sacrifice and renunciation for the sake of a greater good, namely the love of God above all things. Seek to resist forcefully the snares of evil that are found in many contexts, driving you towards a dissolute and paradoxically empty life, causing you to lose the precious gift of your freedom and your true happiness. True love "increasingly seeks the happiness of the other, is concerned more and more with the beloved, bestows itself and wants to 'be there for' the other" (ibid., 7) and therefore will always grow in faithfulness, indissolubility and fruitfulness.

In all these things, count upon the help of Jesus Christ who will make them possible through his grace (cf. Mt 19:26). The life of faith and prayer will lead you along the paths of intimacy with God, helping you to understand the greatness of his plans for every person. "For the sake of the kingdom of heaven" ( Mt 19:12), some are called to a total and definitive self-giving, by consecrating themselves to God in the religious life -- an "exceptional gift of grace", as the Second Vatican Council expressed it (cf. Decree Perfectae Caritatis, 12). Consecrated persons, by giving themselves totally to God, prompted by the Holy Spirit, participate in the Church's mission, bearing witness before all people to their hope in the heavenly Kingdom. I therefore bless and invoke divine protection upon all those religious who have dedicated themselves to Christ and to their brothers and sisters within the vineyard of the Lord. Consecrated persons truly deserve the gratitude of the ecclesial community: monks and nuns, contemplative men and women, religious men and women dedicated to apostolic works, members of Secular Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life, hermits and consecrated virgins. "Their existence witnesses to their love for Christ as they walk the path proposed in the Gospel and with deep joy commit themselves to the same style of life which he chose for himself" (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life, Instruction Starting Afresh from Christ, 5). I pray that in this moment of grace and profound communion in Christ, the Holy Spirit will awaken in the hearts of many young people an impassioned love, prompting them to follow and imitate Jesus Christ, chaste, poor and obedient, totally devoted to the glory of the Father and to love for their brothers and sisters.

6. The Gospel assures us that the young man who went to meet Jesus was very rich. We may understand this wealth not only on the material level. Youth itself is a singular treasure. We have to discover it and to value it. Jesus appreciated it so much that he went on to invite the young man to participate in his saving mission. He had great potential and could have accomplished great things.

But the Gospel goes on to say that this young man, having heard the invitation, was saddened. He went away downcast and sad. This episode causes us to reflect further on the treasure of youth. It is not, in the first place, a question of material wealth, but of life itself, and the values inherent in youth. This wealth is inherited from two sources: life, transmitted from generation to generation, at the ultimate origin of which we find God, full of wisdom and love; and upbringing, which locates us within a culture, to such an extent that we might almost say we are more children of culture and therefore of faith, than of nature. From life springs freedom, which manifests itself, especially in this phase, as responsibility. There comes the great moment of decision, in a twofold choice: firstly, concerning one's state of life, and secondly concerning one's profession. It is about providing an answer to the question: what do I do with my life?

In other words, youth appears as a form of wealth because it leads to the discovery of life as a gift and a task. The young man in the Gospel understood that his youth was itself a treasure. He went to Jesus, the good Teacher, in order to seek some direction. At the moment of the great decision, however, he lacked the courage to wager everything on Jesus Christ. In consequence, he went away sad and downcast. This is what happens whenever our decisions waver and become cowardly and self-seeking. He understood that what he lacked was generosity, and this did not allow him to realize his full potential. He withdrew to his riches, turning them to selfishness.

Jesus regretted the sadness and the cowardice of the young man who had come to seek him out. The Apostles, like all of you here today, filled the vacuum left by that young man who went away sad and downcast. They, and we, are happy, because we know the one in whom we believe (cf. 2 Tim 1:12). We know and we bear witness with our lives that he alone has the words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:68). Therefore, we can exclaim with Saint Paul: Rejoice always in the Lord! (cf. Phil 4:4).

7. My appeal to you today, young people present at this gathering, is this: do not waste your youth. Do not seek to escape from it. Live it intensely. Consecrate it to the high ideals of faith and human solidarity.

You, young people, are not just the future of the Church and of humanity, as if we could somehow run away from the present. On the contrary: you are that young man now; you are that young man in the Church and in humanity today. You are his young face. The Church needs you, as young people, to manifest to the world the face of Jesus Christ, visible in the Christian community. Without this young face, the Church would appear disfigured.

My dear young people, soon I shall inaugurate the Fifth Conference of the Bishops of Latin America. I ask you to follow its deliberations attentively; to participate in its discussions; to receive its fruits. As was the case with earlier Conferences, the present one will also leave a significant mark on the next ten years of evangelization in Latin America and the Caribbean. No one must stay on the sidelines or remain indifferent in the face of this ecclesial initiative, least of all you young people. You are full members of the Church, which represents the face of Jesus Christ for Latin America and the Caribbean.

I greet the French speakers who live on the Latin American continent, and I invite them to be witnesses of the Gospel, and to be actively engaged in the life of the Church. My prayer is addressed to you young people in a particular way: you are called to build your lives on Christ and on fundamental human values. Everyone should feel invited to work together in order to build a world of justice and peace.

My dear young friends, like the young man in the Gospel who asked Jesus: "What good deed must I do, to have eternal life?", you are all seeking ways to respond generously to God's call. I pray that you may listen to his saving words and that you may become his witnesses for the peoples of today. May God pour out upon all of you his blessings of peace and joy.

My dear young people, Christ is calling you to be saints. He himself is inviting you and wants to walk with you, in order to enliven with his Spirit the steps that Brazil is taking at the beginning of this third millennium of the Christian era. I ask the Senhora Aparecida to guide you with her maternal help and to accompany you throughout your lives.

Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ!


VATICAN CITY, APRIL 17, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's March 28 address to participants in the ninth International Youth Forum.

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(Rocca di Papa, 28-31 March 2007)

President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity

It gives me great pleasure to send my cordial greeting to you, Venerable Brother, to the Secretary, to those working with the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and to all those who are taking part in the 9th International Youth Forum on the theme "Witnessing to Christ in the world of work" that is taking place this week in Rocca di Papa. It is with particular affection that I direct my thoughts to the young delegates from the bishops' conferences and the international movements, associations and communities that have come from the five continents and who work in very different fields. I extend my respectful greetings to the distinguished speakers who have agreed to contribute to the meeting with their expertise and experience.

The theme is very much a topical issue and takes into account the transformations that have taken place in recent years in the fields of economics, technology and communications, changes that have radically changed the appearance and conditions of the labour market. The progress achieved has, on the one hand, given new hope to young people, but on the other it has created disturbing forms of marginalisation and exploitation with more and more situations of personal hardship. Because of the noticeable difference between the education and training received and the world of work, it is now more difficult for them to find employment that meets with their personal skills and studies, and there is no certainty that they will be able to maintain even unstable employment for any length of time. The process of globalisation taking place in the world entails a need for mobility that obliges numerous young people to emigrate and live far from their home countries and their families. This brings about an unsettling feeling of insecurity that undoubtedly has repercussions on their ability to not only dream and build up a project for the future, but even to commit themselves to matrimony and start a family. These are complex and delicate questions that must be faced in due course, keeping in mind the reality of our times while referring to the social doctrine of the Church. This is duly presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and especially in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

The attention of the Church in recent years has been constantly directed on the social question, and in particular on that of work. We remember the encyclical Laborem exercens published a little over twenty-five years ago, on 14 September 1981, by my well loved predecessor John Paul II. This reaffirmed and updated the great intuitions developed by Pope Leo XIII and Pius XI in the encyclicals Rerum novarum (1891) and Quadragesimo anno (1931), both written during the period of the industrialisation of Europe. In a context of economic liberalism conditioned by market forces, of competition and competitiveness, these pontifical documents forcefully call on the need to evaluate the human dimension of work and to protect the dignity of the person. In fact, the ultimate reference of every human activity can only be the human person, created in the image and likeness of God. A close analysis of the situation, in fact, shows that work is part of God's plan for humankind and that it is participation in his work of creation and redemption. Every human activity should be an occasion and place for the growth of individuals and society, the development of personal "talents" that should be appreciated and placed at the ordered service of the common good, in a spirit of justice and solidarity. For believers, moreover, the ultimate aim of work is the building up of the Kingdom of God.

While I invite you to treasure the conversations and reflections that take place over the next few days, I hope that this important assembly of young people may be a profitable occasion of spiritual and ecclesial growth for the participants, through the sharing of experiences and personal accounts, and common prayer and liturgies celebrated together. Today, more than ever, it is necessary and urgent to proclaim "the Gospel of Work", to live as Christians in the world of work and become apostles among workers. In order to fulfil this mission it is necessary to remain united to Christ through prayer and a deep sacramental life, and for this purpose, to hold Sunday in special high regard, for it is the day dedicated to the Lord. While I encourage young people not to lose heart when faced with these difficulties, I invite them to participate next Sunday in Saint Peter's Square in the solemn celebration of Palm Sunday and the 22nd World Youth Day, the final stage of preparation for the World Youth Day that will take place in Sydney Australia next year.

The theme for reflection this year is: "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another" (Jn 13:34). Here I repeat what I wrote to young Christians all over the world, that there may be awakened in young Christians, "trust in a love that is true, faithful and strong; a love that generates peace and joy; a love that binds people together and allows them to feel free in respect for one another", and allows them to develop their abilities to the full. It is not simply a question of becoming more "competitive" and "productive", but it is necessary to be "witnesses of charity". It is only in this way that young people -- with the support of their respective parishes, movements and communities, in which it is possible to experience the greatness and vitality of the Church -- will be able to experience work as a vocation and true mission. To this end, Venerable Brother, I assure you of my prayers, with the heavenly protection of Mary and Saint Joseph, patron of workers, I send you and all those participating in the International Forum and all young Christian workers, a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 28 March 2007

Benedictus PP XVI


"A 'Discovery' of Love"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 5, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the message Benedict XVI wrote to young people, for the diocesan-level World Youth Day, to be observed April 1.

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"Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another" (Jn 13:34)

My dear young friends,

On the occasion of the 22nd World Youth Day that will be celebrated in the dioceses on Palm Sunday, I would like to propose for your meditation the words of Jesus: "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another" (Jn 13:34).

Is it possible to love?

Everybody feels the longing to love and to be loved. Yet, how difficult it is to love, and how many mistakes and failures have to be reckoned with in love! There are those who even come to doubt that love is possible. But if emotional delusions or lack of affection can cause us to think that love is utopian, an impossible dream, should we then become resigned? No! Love is possible, and the purpose of my message is to help reawaken in each one of you -- you who are the future and hope of humanity --, trust in a love that is true, faithful and strong; a love that generates peace and joy; a love that binds people together and allows them to feel free in respect for one another. Let us now go on a journey together in three stages, as we embark on a "discovery" of love.

God, the source of love

The first stage concerns the source of true love. There is only one source, and that is God. Saint John makes this clear when he declares that "God is love" (1 Jn 4:8,16). He was not simply saying that God loves us, but that the very being of God is love. Here we find ourselves before the most dazzling revelation of the source of love, the mystery of the Trinity: in God, one and triune, there is an everlasting exchange of love between the persons of the Father and the Son, and this love is not an energy or a sentiment, but it is a person; it is the Holy Spirit.

The Cross of Christ fully reveals the love of God

How is God-Love revealed to us? We have now reached the second stage of our journey. Even though the signs of divine love are already clearly present in creation, the full revelation of the intimate mystery of God came to us through the Incarnation when God himself became man. In Christ, true God and true Man, we have come to know love in all its magnitude. In fact, as I wrote in the Encyclical Deus caritas est, "the real novelty of the New Testament lies not so much in new ideas as in the figure of Christ himself, who gives flesh and blood to those concepts -- an unprecedented realism" (n. 12). The manifestation of divine love is total and perfect in the Cross where, we are told by Saint Paul, "God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us" (Rm 5:8). Therefore, each one of us can truly say: "Christ loved me and gave himself up for me" (cf Eph 5:2). Redeemed by his blood, no human life is useless or of little value, because each of us is loved personally by Him with a passionate and faithful love, a love without limits. The Cross, -- for the world a folly, for many believers a scandal --, is in fact the "wisdom of God" for those who allow themselves to be touched right to the innermost depths of their being, "for God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength" (1 Cor 1:25). Moreover, the Crucifix, which after the Resurrection would carry forever the marks of his passion, exposes the "distortions" and lies about God that underlie violence, vengeance and exclusion. Christ is the Lamb of God who takes upon himself the sins of the world and eradicates hatred from the heart of humankind. This is the true "revolution" that He brings about: love.

Loving our neighbor as Christ loves us

Now we have arrived at the third stage of our reflection. Christ cried out from the Cross: "I am thirsty" (Jn 19:28). This shows us his burning thirst to love and to be loved by each one of us. It is only by coming to perceive the depth and intensity of such a mystery that we can realize the need and urgency to love him as He has loved us. This also entails the commitment to even give our lives, if necessary, for our brothers and sisters sustained by love for Him. God had already said in the Old Testament: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev 19:18), but the innovation introduced by Christ is the fact that to love as he loves us means loving everyone without distinction, even our enemies, "to the end" (cf Jn 13:1).

Witnesses to the love of Christ

I would like to linger for a moment on three areas of daily life where you, my dear young friends, are particularly called to demonstrate the love of God. The first area is the Church, our spiritual family, made up of all the disciples of Christ. Mindful of his words: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13:35), you should stimulate, with your enthusiasm and charity, the activities of the parishes, the communities, the ecclesial movements and the youth groups to which you belong. Be attentive in your concern for the welfare of others, faithful to the commitments you have made. Do not hesitate to joyfully abstain from some of your entertainments; cheerfully accept the necessary sacrifices; testify to your faithful love for Jesus by proclaiming his Gospel, especially among young people of your age.

Preparing for the future

The second area, where you are called to express your love and grow in it, is your preparation for the future that awaits you. If you are engaged to be married, God has a project of love for your future as a couple and as a family. Therefore, it is essential that you discover it with the help of the Church, free from the common prejudice that says that Christianity with its commandments and prohibitions places obstacles to the joy of love and impedes you from fully enjoying the happiness that a man and woman seek in their reciprocal love. The love of a man and woman is at the origin of the human family and the couple formed by a man and a woman has its foundation in God's original plan (cf Gen 2:18-25). Learning to love each other as a couple is a wonderful journey, yet it requires a demanding "apprenticeship". The period of engagement, very necessary in order to form a couple, is a time of expectation and preparation that needs to be lived in purity of gesture and words. It allows you to mature in love, in concern and in attention for each other; it helps you to practice self-control and to develop your respect for each other. These are the characteristics of true love that does not place emphasis on seeking its own satisfaction or its own welfare. In your prayer together, ask the Lord to watch over and increase your love and to purify it of all selfishness. Do not hesitate to respond generously to the Lord's call, for Christian matrimony is truly and wholly a vocation in the Church. Likewise, dear young men and women, be ready to say "yes" if God should call you to follow the path of ministerial priesthood or the consecrated life. Your example will be one of encouragement for many of your peers who are seeking true happiness.

Growing in love each day

The third area of commitment that comes with love is that of daily life with its multiple relationships. I am particularly referring to family, studies, work and free time. Dear young friends, cultivate your talents, not only to obtain a social position, but also to help others to "grow". Develop your capacities, not only in order to become more "competitive" and "productive", but to be "witnesses of charity". In addition to your professional training, also make an effort to acquire religious knowledge that will help you to carry out your mission in a responsible way. In particular, I invite you to carefully study the social doctrine of the Church so that its principles may inspire and guide your action in the world. May the Holy Spirit make you creative in charity, persevering in your commitments, and brave in your initiatives, so that you will be able to offer your contribution to the building up of the "civilization of love". The horizon of love is truly boundless: it is the whole world!

"Dare to love" by following the example of the saints

My dear young friends, I want to invite you to "dare to love". Do not desire anything less for your life than a love that is strong and beautiful and that is capable of making the whole of your existence a joyful undertaking of giving yourselves as a gift to God and your brothers and sisters, in imitation of the One who vanquished hatred and death forever through love (cf Rev 5:13). Love is the only force capable of changing the heart of the human person and of all humanity, by making fruitful the relations between men and women, between rich and poor, between cultures and civilizations. This is shown to us in the lives of the saints. They are true friends of God who channel and reflect this very first love. Try to know them better, entrust yourselves to their intercession, and strive to live as they did. I shall just mention Mother Teresa. In order to respond instantly to the cry of Jesus, "I thirst", a cry that had touched her deeply, she began to take in the people who were dying on the streets of Calcutta in India. From that time onward, the only desire of her life was to quench the thirst of love felt by Jesus, not with words, but with concrete action by recognizing his disfigured countenance thirsting for love in the faces of the poorest of the poor. Blessed Teresa put the teachings of the Lord into practice: "Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40). The message of this humble witness of divine love has spread around the whole world.

The secret of love

Each one of us, my dear friends, has been given the possibility of reaching this same level of love, but only by having recourse to the indispensable support of divine Grace. Only the Lord's help will allow us to keep away from resignation when faced with the enormity of the task to be undertaken. It instills in us the courage to accomplish that which is humanly inconceivable. Contact with the Lord in prayer grounds us in humility and reminds us that we are "unworthy servants" (cf Lk 17:10). Above all, the Eucharist is the great school of love. When we participate regularly and with devotion in Holy Mass, when we spend a sustained time of adoration in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, it is easier to understand the length, breadth, height and depth of his love that goes beyond all knowledge (cf Eph 3:17-18). By sharing the Eucharistic Bread with our brothers and sisters of the Church community, we feel compelled, like Our Lady with Elizabeth, to render "in haste" the love of Christ into generous service towards our brothers and sisters.

Towards the encounter in Sydney

On this subject, the recommendation of the apostle John is illuminating: "Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth" (1 Jn 3:18-19). Dear young people, it is in this spirit that I invite you to experience the next World Youth Day together with your bishops in your respective dioceses. This will be an important stage on the way to the meeting in Sydney where the theme will be: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8). May Mary, the Mother of Christ and of the Church, help you to let that cry ring out everywhere, the cry that has changed the world: "God is love!" I am together with you all in prayer and extend to you my heartfelt blessing.

From the Vatican, 27 January 2007



Pope's questions and Answers with young people
"We Must Make God Present Again in Our Society" (April 6, 2006)

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 23, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the question-and-answer session Benedict XVI had with young people of the Latium region April 6 in St. Peter's Square, in preparation for the diocesan-level World Youth Day.

1. Your Holiness, my name is Simone and I am from St. Bartholomew's Parish. I am 21 years old and am studying chemical engineering at La Sapienza University of Rome.

First of all, thank you for addressing to us the message for the 21st World Youth Day on the topic of the word of God that illuminates the human being's steps through life.

In the face of anxieties and uncertainties about the future, and even simply when I find myself grappling with the daily routine, I also feel the need to be nourished by God's word and to know Christ better in order to find answers to my questions.

I often wonder what Jesus would have done in my place in a specific situation, but I don't always manage to understand what the Bible tells me. Moreover, I know that the books of the Bible were written by different people in different ages, in any case, very distant from me. How can I understand that what I read is nevertheless the word of God which calls my life into question? Thank you.

Benedict XVI: To begin, I shall answer by stressing a first point: It must first of all be said that one must not read sacred Scripture as one reads any kind of historical book, such as, for example, Homer, Ovid or Horace; it is necessary truly to read it as the word of God, that is, entering into a conversation with God.

One must start by praying and talking to the Lord: "Open the door to me." And what St. Augustine often says in his homilies: "I knocked at the door of the word to find out at last what the Lord wants to say to me," seems to me to be a very important point. One should not read Scripture in an academic way, but with prayer, saying to the Lord: "Help me to understand your word, what it is that you want to tell me in this passage."

A second point is: Sacred Scripture introduces one into communion with the family of God. Thus, one should not read sacred Scripture on one's own. Of course, it is always important to read the Bible in a very personal way, in a personal conversation with God; but at the same time, it is important to read it in the company of people with whom one can advance, letting oneself be helped by the great masters of "lectio divina."

For example, we have many beautiful books by Cardinal Martini, a true master of "lectio divina," who helps us to enter into the life of sacred Scripture. Nevertheless, one who is thoroughly familiar with all the historical circumstances, all the characteristic elements of the past, always seeks to open the door to show that the words which appear to belong to the past are also words of the present.

These teachers help us to understand better and also to learn how to interpret sacred Scripture properly. Moreover, it is also appropriate in general to read it in the company of friends who are journeying with me, who are seeking, together with me, how to live with Christ, to find what life the word of God brings us.

A third point: If it is important to read sacred Scripture with the help of teachers and in the company of friends, traveling companions, it is particularly important to read it in the great company of the pilgrim people of God, that is, in the Church.

Sacred Scripture has two subjects. First and foremost, the divine subject: It is God who is speaking. However, God wanted to involve man in his word. Whereas Muslims are convinced that the Koran was verbally inspired by God, we believe that for sacred Scripture it is "synergy" -- as the theologians say -- that is characteristic, the collaboration of God with man.

God involves his people with his word, hence, the second subject -- the first subject, as I said, is God -- is human. There are individual writers, but there is the continuity of a permanent subject -- the people of God that journeys on with the word of God and is in conversation with God. By listening to God, one learns to listen to the word of God and then also to interpret it.

Thus, the word of God becomes present, because individual persons die but the vital subject, the people of God, is always alive and is identical in the course of the millenniums: It is always the same living subject in which the word lives.

This also explains many structures of sacred Scripture, especially the so-called rereading. An ancient text is reread in another book, let us say 100 years later, and what had been impossible to perceive in that earlier moment, although it was already contained in the previous text, is understood in-depth.

And it is read again, ages later, and once again other aspects, other dimensions of the word are grasped. So it was that sacred Scripture developed, in this permanent rereading and rewriting in the context of profound continuity, in a continuous succession of the times of waiting.

At last, with the coming of Christ and the experience of the apostles, the word became definitive. Thus, there can be no further rewriting, but a further deepening of our understanding continues to be necessary. The Lord said: "The Holy Spirit will guide you into depths that you cannot fathom now."

Consequently, the communion of the Church is the living subject of Scripture. However, here too the principal subject is the Lord himself, who continues to speak through the Scriptures that we have in our hands.

I think that we should learn to do three things: To read it in a personal colloquium with the Lord; to read it with the guidance of teachers who have the experience of faith, who have penetrated sacred Scripture, and to read it in the great company of the Church, in whose liturgy these events never cease to become present anew and in which the Lord speaks with us today.

Thus, we may gradually penetrate ever more deeply into sacred Scripture, in which God truly speaks to us today.

4. Your Holiness, My name is Vittorio, I am from the Parish of St. John Bosco in Cinecittà. I am 20 years old and am studying educational sciences at the University of Tor Vergata.

Once again, in your message you invite us not to be afraid to respond to the Lord with generosity, especially when he suggests following him in the consecrated or priestly life. You tell us that if we are not afraid, if we trust in him, then we will not be deceived.

I am convinced that many of us, here or among those at home who are watching us this evening on television, are thinking of following Jesus in a life of special consecration, but it is not always easy to understand if this is the right path.

Can you tell us how you yourself came to understand your vocation? Can you give us some advice so that we can really understand whether the Lord is calling us to follow him in the consecrated or priestly life? Thank you.

Benedict XVI: As for me, I grew up in a world very different from the world today, but in the end situations are similar.

On the one hand, the situation of "Christianity" still existed, where it was normal to go to church and to accept the faith as the revelation of God, and to try to live in accordance with his revelation; on the other, there was the Nazi regime which loudly stated: "In the new Germany there will be no more priests, there will be no more consecrated life, we do not need these people; look for another career."

However, it was precisely in hearing these "loud" voices, in facing the brutality of that system with an inhuman face, that I realized that there was instead a great need for priests.

This contrast, the sight of that anti-human culture, confirmed my conviction that the Lord, the Gospel and the faith were pointing out the right path, and that we were bound to commit ourselves to ensuring that this path survives. In this situation, my vocation to the priesthood grew with me, almost naturally, without any dramatic events of conversion.

Two other things also helped me on this journey: Already as a boy, helped by my parents and by the parish priest, I had discovered the beauty of the liturgy, and I came to love it more and more because I felt that divine beauty appears in it and that heaven unfolds before us.

The second element was the discovery of the beauty of knowledge, of knowing God and sacred Scripture, thanks to which it is possible to enter into that great adventure of dialogue with God which is theology. Thus, it was a joy to enter into this 1,000-year-old work of theology, this celebration of the liturgy in which God is with us and celebrates with us.

Of course, problems were not lacking. I wondered if I would really be able to live celibacy all my life. Being a man of theoretical and not practical training, I also knew that it was not enough to love theology in order to be a good priest, but that it was also necessary to be always available to young people, the elderly, the sick and the poor: the need to be simple with the simple.

Theology is beautiful, but the simplicity of words and Christian life is indispensable. And so I asked myself: Will I be able to live all this and not be one-sided, merely a theologian, etc.?

However, the Lord helped me and the company of friends, of good priests and teachers especially helped me.

To return to the question, I think it is important to be attentive to the Lord's gestures on our journey. He speaks to us through events, through people, through encounters: It is necessary to be attentive to all of this.

Then, a second point, it is necessary to enter into real friendship with Jesus in a personal relationship with him and not to know who Jesus is only from others or from books, but to live an ever deeper personal relationship with Jesus, where we can begin to understand what he is asking of us.

And then, the awareness of what I am, of my possibilities: On the one hand, courage, and on the other, humility, trust and openness, with the help also of friends, of Church authority and also of priests, of families: What does the Lord want of me?

Of course, this is always a great adventure, but life can be successful only if we have the courage to be adventurous, trusting that the Lord will never leave me alone, that the Lord will go with me and help me.

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5. Holy Father, I am Giovanni, I am 17 years old, I am studying at Giovanni Giorgi technological and scientific secondary school in Rome, and I belong to Holy Mary Mother of Mercy Parish.

I ask you to help us to understand better how biblical revelation and scientific theory can converge in the search for truth.

We are often led to believe that knowledge and faith are each other's enemies; that knowledge and technology are the same thing; that it was through mathematical logic that everything was discovered; that the world is the result of an accident, and that if mathematics did not discover the theorem-God, it is because God simply does not exist.

In short, especially when we are studying, it is not always easy to trace everything back to a divine plan inherent in the nature and history of human beings. Thus, faith at times vacillates or is reduced to a simple sentimental act.

Holy Father, like all young people, I too am thirsting for the truth: But what can I do to harmonize knowledge and faith?

Benedict XVI: The great Galileo said that God wrote the book of nature in the form of the language of mathematics. He was convinced that God has given us two books: the book of sacred Scripture and the book of nature. And the language of nature -- this was his conviction -- is mathematics, so it is a language of God, a language of the Creator.

Let us now reflect on what mathematics is: In itself, it is an abstract system, an invention of the human spirit which as such in its purity does not exist. It is always approximated, but as such is an intellectual system, a great, ingenious invention of the human spirit.

The surprising thing is that this invention of our human intellect is truly the key to understanding nature, that nature is truly structured in a mathematical way, and that our mathematics, invented by our human mind, is truly the instrument for working with nature, to put it at our service, to use it through technology.

It seems to me almost incredible that an invention of the human mind and the structure of the universe coincide. Mathematics, which we invented, really gives us access to the nature of the universe and makes it possible for us to use it.

Therefore, the intellectual structure of the human subject and the objective structure of reality coincide: The subjective reason and the objective reason of nature are identical. I think that this coincidence between what we thought up and how nature is fulfilled and behaves is a great enigma and a great challenge, for we see that, in the end, it is "one" reason that links them both.

Our reason could not discover this other reason were there not an identical antecedent reason for both.

In this sense it really seems to me that mathematics -- in which as such God cannot appear -- shows us the intelligent structure of the universe. Now, there are also theories of chaos, but they are limited because if chaos had the upper hand, all technology would become impossible. Only because our mathematics is reliable, is technology reliable.

Our knowledge, which is at last making it possible to work with the energies of nature, supposes the reliable and intelligent structure of matter. Thus, we see that there is a subjective rationality and an objectified rationality in matter which coincide.

Of course, no one can now prove -- as is proven in an experiment, in technical laws -- that they both really originated in a single intelligence, but it seems to me that this unity of intelligence, behind the two intelligences, really appears in our world. And the more we can delve into the world with our intelligence, the more clearly the plan of Creation appears.

In the end, to reach the definitive question I would say: God exists or he does not exist. There are only two options. Either one recognizes the priority of reason, of creative reason that is at the beginning of all things and is the principle of all things -- the priority of reason is also the priority of freedom -- or one holds the priority of the irrational, inasmuch as everything that functions on our earth and in our lives would be only accidental, marginal, an irrational result -- reason would be a product of irrationality.

One cannot ultimately "prove" either project, but the great option of Christianity is the option for rationality and for the priority of reason. This seems to me to be an excellent option, which shows us that behind everything is a great Intelligence to which we can entrust ourselves.

However, the true problem challenging faith today seems to me to be the evil in the world: We ask ourselves how it can be compatible with the Creator's rationality. And here we truly need God, who was made flesh and shows us that he is not only a mathematical reason but that this original reason is also love. If we look at the great options, the Christian option today is the one that is the most rational and the most human.

Therefore, we can confidently work out a philosophy, a vision of the world based on this priority of reason, on this trust that the creating reason is love and that this love is God.

--- --- ---

2. Holy Father, my name is Anna. I am 19 years old, I am studying literature, and I belong to the Parish of St. Mary of Carmel.

One of the problems we are constantly facing is how to approach emotional issues. We frequently find it difficult to love. Yes, difficult: Because it is easy to confuse love with selfishness, especially today when most of the media almost imposes on us an individualistic, secularized vision of sexuality in which everything seems licit and everything is permitted in the name of freedom and individual conscience.

The family based on marriage now seems little more than a Church invention, not to speak of premarital relations, whose prohibition appears, even to many of us believers, difficult to understand or anachronistic.

Knowing well that so many of us are striving to live our emotional life responsibly, could you explain to us what the Word of God has to tell us about this? Thank you.

Benedict XVI: This is a vast question and it would certainly be impossible to answer it in a few minutes, but I will try to say something.

Anna herself has already given us some of the answers. She said that today love is often wrongly interpreted because it is presented as a selfish experience, whereas it is actually an abandonment of self, and thus becomes a self-discovery.

She also said that a consumer culture falsifies our life with a relativism that seems to grant us everything, but in fact completely drains us.

So let us listen to the word of God in this regard. Anna rightly wanted to know what the word of God says. For me it is a beautiful thing to observe that already in the first pages of sacred Scripture, subsequent to the story of man's creation, we immediately find the definition of love and marriage.

The sacred author tells us: "A man will leave his father and mother and will cleave to his wife, and they will become one flesh," one life (cf. Genesis 2:24-25). We are at the beginning and we are already given a prophecy of what marriage is; and this definition also remains identical in the New Testament.

Marriage is this following of the other in love, thus becoming one existence, one flesh, therefore inseparable; a new life that is born from this communion of love that unites and thus also creates the future.

Medieval theologians, interpreting this affirmation which is found at the beginning of sacred Scripture, said that marriage is the first of the seven sacraments to have been instituted by God already at the moment of creation, in paradise, at the beginning of history and before any human history.

It is a sacrament of the Creator of the universe; hence, it is engraved in the human being himself, who is oriented to this journey on which man leaves his parents and is united to a woman in order to form only one flesh, so that the two may be a single existence.

Thus, the sacrament of marriage is not an invention of the Church; it is really "con-created" with man as such, as a fruit of the dynamism of love in which the man and the woman find themselves and thus also find the Creator who called them to love.

It is true that man fell and was expelled from paradise, or, in other words, more modern words, it is true that all cultures are polluted by the sin, the errors of human beings in their history, and that the initial plan engraved in our nature is thereby clouded. Indeed, in human cultures we find this clouding of God's original plan.

At the same time, however, if we look at cultures, the whole cultural history of humanity, we note that man was never able to forget completely this plan that exists in the depths of his being. He has always known, in a certain sense, that other forms of relationships between a man and a woman do not truly correspond with the original design for his being.

And thus, in cultures, especially in the great cultures, we see again and again how they are oriented to this reality: monogamy, the man and the woman becoming one flesh.

This is how a new generation can grow in fidelity, how a cultural tradition can endure, renew itself in continuity and make authentic progress.

The Lord, who spoke of this in the language of the prophets of Israel, said referring to Moses, who tolerated divorce: Moses permitted you to divorce "because of the hardness of your hearts." After sin, the heart became "hard," but this was not what the Creator had intended, and the prophets, with increasing clarity, insisted on this original plan.

To renew man, the Lord -- alluding to these prophetic voices which always guided Israel towards the clarity of monogamy -- recognized with Ezekiel that, to live this vocation, we need a new heart; instead of a heart of stone -- as Ezekiel said -- we need a heart of flesh, a heart that is truly human.

And the Lord "implants" this new heart in us at baptism, through faith. It is not a physical transplant, but perhaps we can make this comparison. After a transplant, the organism needs treatment, requires the necessary medicines to be able to live with the new heart, so that it becomes "one's own heart" and not the "heart of another."

This is especially so in this "spiritual transplant" when the Lord implants within us a new heart, a heart open to the Creator, to God's call. To be able to live with this new heart, adequate treatment is necessary; one must have recourse to the appropriate medicines so that it can really become "our heart."

Thus, by living in communion with Christ, with his Church, the new heart truly becomes "our own heart" and makes marriage possible. The exclusive love between a man and a woman, their life as a couple planned by the Creator, becomes possible, even if the atmosphere of our world makes it difficult to the point that it appears impossible.

The Lord gives us a new heart and we must live with this new heart, using the appropriate therapies to ensure that it is really "our own." In this way we live with all that the Creator has given us and this creates a truly happy life.

Indeed, we can also see it in this world, despite the numerous other models of life: There are so many Christian families who live with faithfulness and joy the life and love pointed out to us by the Creator, so that a new humanity develops.

And lastly, I would add: We all know that to reach a goal in a sport or in one's profession, discipline and sacrifices are required; but then, by reaching a desired goal, it is all crowned with success.

Life itself is like this. In other words, becoming men and women according to Jesus' plan demands sacrifices, but these are by no means negative; on the contrary, they are a help in living as people with new hearts, in living a truly human and happy life.

Since a consumer culture exists that wants to prevent us from living in accordance with the Creator's plan, we must have the courage to create islands, oases, and then great stretches of land of Catholic culture where the Creator's design is lived out.

--- --- ---

3. Most Holy Father, my name is Inelida. I am 17 years old, an assistant to the Scout Cub master in the parish of St. Gregory Barberigo, and I am studying at the Mario Mafai senior secondary art school.

In your message for the 21st World Youth Day you said: "There is an urgent need for the emergence of a new generation of apostles anchored firmly in the Word of Christ" [L'Osservatore Romano English edition, March 1, 2006, p. 3]. These are such forceful and demanding words that they are almost frightening.

Of course, we also want to be new apostles, but could you explain to us in greater detail what in your opinion are the greatest challenges to be faced in our times, and how you imagine these new apostles should be? In other words, what does the Lord expect of us?

Benedict XVI: We all ask ourselves what the Lord expects of us. It seems to me that the great challenge of our time -- this is what the bishops on their five-yearly visits tell me, those from Africa, for example -- is secularization: that is, a way of living and presenting the world as "si Deus non daretur," in other words, as if God did not exist.

There is a desire to reduce God to the private sphere, to a sentiment, as if he were not an objective reality. As a result, everyone makes his or her own plan of life. But this vision, presented as though it were scientific, accepts as valid only what can be proven.

With a God who is not available for immediate experimentation, this vision ends by also injuring society. The result is in fact that each one makes his own plan and in the end finds himself opposed to the other. As can be seen, this is definitely an unlivable situation.

We must make God present again in our society. This seems to me to be the first essential element: That God be once again present in our lives, that we do not live as though we were autonomous, authorized to invent what freedom and life are. We must realize that we are creatures, aware that there is a God who has created us and that living in accordance with his will is not dependence, but a gift of love that makes us alive.

Therefore, the first point is to know God, to know him better and better, to recognize that God is in my life, and that God has a place.

The second point -- if we recognize that there is a God, that our freedom is a freedom shared with others and that there must consequently be a common parameter for building a common reality -- the second point, I was saying, presents the question: What God? Indeed, there are so many false images of God, a violent God, etc.

The second point, therefore, is recognizing God who has shown us his face in Jesus, who suffered for us, who loved us to the point of dying, and thus overcame violence. It is necessary to make the living God present in our "own" lives first of all, the God who is not a stranger, a fictitious God, a God only thought of, but a God who has shown himself, who has shown his being and his face.

Only in this way do our lives become true, authentically human; hence, the criteria of true humanism emerge in society.

Here too, as I said in my first answer, it is true that we cannot be alone in building this just and righteous life but must journey on in the company of good and upright friends, companions with whom we can experience that God exists and that it is beautiful to walk with God; and to walk in the great company of the Church, which presents to us down the centuries God who speaks, who acts, who accompanies us.

Therefore, I would say: To find God, to find God revealed in Jesus Christ, to walk in company with his great family, with our brothers and sisters who are God's family, this seems to me to be the essential content of this apostolate of which I spoke.


Benedict XVI, One Year Later: What’s New
One of the innovations introduced by pope Joseph Ratzinger is special: listening to questions in public and replying to all of them, off the cuff. He has done this with young people, priests, children

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, April 18, 2006 – Among the novelties he has introduced during his first year as pope – which comes to completion this Easter week – there is one that Joseph Ratzinger has a special fondness for. So much so that has repeated it several times.

It is the practice of public discussions in question and answer format. Benedict XVI arrives and greets those present, but doesn’t speak from a prepared text. He simply fields questions. And he responds to each of them, spontaneously.

He did so with the priests of the little diocese of Aosta where he was vacationing, on July 25, 2005.

He did so with the children who had received their first communion that year, in St. Peter’s Square on October 15.

He did so with the priests of the diocese of Rome, on March 3, 2006.

He did so with the young people preparing for World Youth Day, three days before Palm Sunday, on April 6 in St. Peter’s Square.

In all these cases, his words had a strong effect on those present. Even the children listened to him attentively.

And the pope did the same thing behind closed doors on March 23, with the cardinals gathered for the consistory. Cardinal Camillo Ruini remarked upon this in an interview with the weekly “Famiglia Cristiana:”

“Benedict XVI succeeds in facing difficult problems with immediacy, using simple words to reply to deep questions. We cardinals experienced this during the consistory, during that day of reflection on the problems of the Church.”

But little or nothing of these dialogues between the pope and his interlocutors reaches the general public. Benedict XVI replies to each question at length and in depth, and so makes it almost impossible to extract short, flashy phrases fit for the newspaper articles.

And the Vatican press office is of little help. In order to be distributed to the journalists, the pope’s remarks must first be replayed and transcribed, and this usually takes a day to complete. And then they are distributed only in the language in which they were delivered, Italian. The translations in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and German arrive many days later and in deranged order. For example, twelve days after it took place, Benedict XVI’s April 6 conversation with young people was available on the Vatican website only in its Italian version.

And yet these are texts of very noteworthy importance. Because of their spontaneity, they better permit one to enter into the pope’s mind and understand the things that are closest to his heart.

For example, replying to the young people he met on April 6, Benedict XVI explained how to read the Bible and why marriage is not the product of a culture, but a primordial reality inscribed in the creation of man and woman; he reasoned on why a life that eliminates God is “unlivable”; he recounted how his vocation to the priesthood was born; he exalted the “divine beauty” of the liturgy; he had wonderful things to say about the “intelligent” structure of the universe...


Papal Message for Youth Day 2006
"Your Word Is a Lamp to My Feet and a Light to My Path"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is Benedict XVI's message to young people on the occasion of the 21st World Youth Day, which will be celebrated at the diocesan level on Palm Sunday, April 9.

* * *

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119 [118]:105)

My dear young friends!

It is with great joy that I greet you as you prepare for the 21st World Youth Day, and I relive the memory of those enriching experiences we had in August last year in Germany. World Youth Day this year will be celebrated in the local Churches, and it will be a good opportunity to rekindle the flame of enthusiasm that was awakened in Cologne and which many of you have brought to your families, parishes, associations and movements. At the same time, it will be a wonderful chance to invite many of your friends to join the young generation's spiritual pilgrimage toward Christ.

The theme that I suggest to you is a verse from Psalm 119 [118]: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (verse 105). Our dearly loved John Paul II commented on that verse of the psalm as follows: "The one who prays pours out his thanks for the Law of God that he adopts as a lamp for his steps in the often dark path of Life" (General Audience, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2001).

God reveals himself in history. He speaks to humankind, and the word he speaks has creative power. The Hebrew concept "dabar," usually translated as "word," really conveys both the meaning of word and act. God says what he does and does what he says. The Old Testament announces to the Children of Israel the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of a "new" covenant; in the Word made flesh He fulfills his promise.

This is clearly specified in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father's one, perfect and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything; there will be no other word than this one" (No. 65). The Holy Spirit who has led the chosen people by inspiring the authors of the sacred Scriptures, opens the hearts of believers to understand their meaning.

This same Spirit is actively present in the Eucharistic celebration when the priest, "in persona Christi," says the words of consecration, changing the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, for the spiritual nourishment of the faithful. In order to progress on our earthly pilgrimage toward the heavenly Kingdom, we all need to be nourished by the word and the bread of eternal Life, and these are inseparable from one another!

The Apostles received the word of salvation and passed it on to their successors as a precious gem kept safely in the jewel box of the Church: Without the Church, this pearl runs the risk of being lost or destroyed.

My dear young friends, love the word of God and love the Church, and this will give you access to a treasure of very great value and will teach you how to appreciate its richness. Love and follow the Church, for it has received from its Founder the mission of showing people the way to true happiness. It is not easy to recognize and find authentic happiness in this world in which we live, where people are often held captive by the current ways of thinking. They may think they are "free," but they are being led astray and become lost amid the errors or illusions of aberrant ideologies.

"Freedom itself needs to be set free" (cf. the encyclical "Veritatis Splendor," No. 86), and the darkness in which humankind is groping needs to be illuminated. Jesus taught us how this can be done: "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:31-32). The incarnate Word, Word of Truth, makes us free and directs our freedom toward the good.

My dear young friends, meditate often on the word of God, and allow the Holy Spirit to be your teacher. You will then discover that God's way of thinking is not the same as that of humankind's. You will find yourselves led to contemplate the real God and to read the events of history through his eyes. You will savor in fullness the joy that is born of truth. On life's journey, which is neither easy nor free of deceptions, you will meet difficulties and suffering and at times you will be tempted to exclaim with the psalmist: "I am severely afflicted" (Psalm 119 [118]:107).

Do not forget to add as the psalmist did: "Give me life, O Lord, according to your word ... I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law" (ibid. vv. 107; 109). The loving presence of God, through his word, is the lamp that dispels the darkness of fear and lights up the path even when times are most difficult.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote: "Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (4:12). It is necessary to take seriously the injunction to consider the word of God to be an indispensable "weapon" in the spiritual struggle. This will be effective and show results if we learn to listen to it and then to obey it.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: "To obey (from the Latin 'ob-audire,' to 'hear or listen to') in faith is to submit freely to the word that has been heard, because its truth is guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself" (No. 144). While Abraham exemplifies this way of listening which is obedience, Solomon in his turn shows himself to be a passionate explorer of the wisdom contained in the Word. When God said to him: "Ask what I should give you," the wise king replied: "Give your servant therefore an understanding heart" (1 Kings 3:5,9).

The secret of acquiring "an understanding heart" is to train your heart to listen. This is obtained by persistently meditating on the word of God and by remaining firmly rooted in it through the commitment to persevere in getting to know it better.

My dear young friends, I urge you to become familiar with the Bible, and to have it at hand so that it can be your compass pointing out the road to follow. By reading it, you will learn to know Christ. Note what St. Jerome said in this regard: "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ" (PL 24,17; cf. "Dei Verbum," 25). A time-honored way to study and savor the word of God is "lectio divina" which constitutes a real and veritable "spiritual journey" marked out in stages. After the "lectio," which consists of reading and rereading a passage from sacred Scripture and taking in the main elements, we proceed to "meditation."

This is a moment of interior reflection in which the soul turns to God and tries to understand what his word is saying to us today. Then comes "oratio" in which we linger to talk with God directly. Finally we come to "contemplatio." This helps us to keep our hearts attentive to the presence of Christ whose word is "a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts" (2 Peter 1:19). Reading, study and meditation of the Word should then flow into a life of consistent fidelity to Christ and his teachings.

St. James tells us: "Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act -- they will be blessed in their doing" (1:22-25).

Those who listen to the word of God and refer to it always, are constructing their existence on solid foundations. "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them," Jesus said, "will be like a wise man who built his house on rock" (Matthew 7:24). It will not collapse when bad weather comes.

To build your life on Christ, to accept the word with joy and put its teachings into practice: This, young people of the third millennium, should be your program! There is an urgent need for the emergence of a new generation of apostles anchored firmly in the word of Christ, capable of responding to the challenges of our times and prepared to spread the Gospel far and wide.

It is this that the Lord asks of you, it is to this that the Church invites you, and it is this that the world -- even though it may not be aware of it -- expects of you! If Jesus calls you, do not be afraid to respond to him with generosity, especially when he asks you to follow him in the consecrated life or in the priesthood. Do not be afraid; trust in him and you will not be disappointed.

Dear friends, at the 21st World Youth Day that we will celebrate on 9 April next, Palm Sunday, we will set out, in our hearts, on a pilgrimage toward the world encounter with young people that will take place in Sydney in July 2008. We will prepare for that great appointment reflecting together on the theme "The Holy Spirit and the Mission" in successive stages.

This year our attention will focus on the Holy Spirit, Spirit of Truth, who reveals Christ to us, the Word made flesh, opening the heart of each one to the Word of salvation that leads to the fullness of Truth. Next year, 2007, we will meditate on a verse from the Gospel of John: "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another" (13:34).

We will discover more about the Holy Spirit, Spirit of Love, who infuses divine charity within us and makes us aware of the material and spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters. We will finally reach the world meeting of 2008 and its theme will be: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8).

From this moment onward, my dear young friends, in a climate of constant listening to the word of God, call on the Holy Spirit, "Spirit of fortitude and witness," that you may be able to proclaim the Gospel without fear even to the ends of the earth. Our Lady was present in the cenacle with the Apostles as they waited for Pentecost. May she be your mother and guide. May she teach you to receive the word of God, to treasure it and to ponder on it in your heart (cf. Luke 2:19) as she did throughout her life. May she encourage you to declare your "yes" to the Lord as you live "the obedience of faith." May she help you to remain strong in the faith, constant in hope, persevering in charity, always attentive to the word of God. I am together with you in prayer, and I bless each one of you with all my heart.

From the Vatican, 22 February 2006, Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter Apostle



Pope's Message to Young Dutch Catholics
"True Happiness Is Much Deeper: We Find It Only in Jesus"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 24, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a recently released translation of the message Benedict XVI sent for the first National Day of Young Catholics of the Netherlands. The message was read to the thousands of youths gathered Nov. 27 in Nieuwegein. The document was dated Nov. 21.

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Dear young Friends,

I would like to send my cordial greetings to you all, gathered in Nieuwegein for the First National Day of Young Catholics of the Netherlands. I greet Cardinal Adrianus Simonis, archbishop of Utrecht and president of the Bishops' Conference, and all the Dutch bishops, expressing deep appreciation for the organization of this propitious initiative. I would then like to thank the Werkgroep Katholieke Jongeren for its work in these years and the priests and lay people involved in the pastoral care of youth, who are following you in your reflection.

With this message, dear young people, I wish to make myself spiritually present among you and to assure you that I accompany you in prayer. I know that a great many of you took part in the world meeting at Cologne and it therefore gives me great joy that you now want to continue the experience that began with World Youth Day, involving others of your age who did not have the grace to take part in it. Holding today's meeting at the invitation of your bishops is a very beautiful sign for Dutch society: It means that you are not afraid to say that you are Christians and want to witness to it openly.

In fact, the deepest reason for your gathering together is to encounter the Lord Jesus Christ. This is how it was for those who took part in the recent World Youth Day, whose theme was: "We have come to worship him" (Matthew 2:2). In the footsteps of the Magi, impelled by the yearning to seek the truth, young people from every corner of the earth met in Cologne to seek and worship God made Man, and then, transformed by their encounter with him and illumined by his presence, they returned to their country, like the Magi, "by another route" (Matthew 2:12). So it was that you returned to Holland, eager to communicate to one and all your rich experience, and today you want to share it with your peers.

Dear friends, Jesus is your true friend and Lord; enter into a relationship of true friendship with him! He is expecting you and in him alone will you find happiness.

How easy it is to be content with the superficial pleasures that daily life offers us; how easy it is to live only for oneself, apparently enjoying life! But sooner or later we realize that this is not true happiness, because true happiness is much deeper: We find it only in Jesus.

As I said in Cologne, "The happiness you are seeking, the happiness you have a right to enjoy, has a name and a face: it is Jesus of Nazareth" (Address at the Poller Rheinwiesen Wharf, Aug. 18, 2005; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, Aug. 24, p. 4).

I therefore invite you every day to seek the Lord, who wants nothing more than for you to be truly happy. Foster an intense and constant relationship with him in prayer and, when possible, find suitable moments in your day to be alone in his company. If you do not know how to pray, ask him to teach you, and ask your heavenly Mother to pray with you and for you.

The recitation of the rosary can help you learn the art of prayer with Mary's simplicity and depth. It is important that you make participation in the Eucharist, in which Jesus gives himself for us, the heart of your life. He who died for the sins of all desires to enter into communion with each one of you and is knocking at the doors of your hearts to give you his grace.

Go to the encounter with him in the Blessed Eucharist, go to adore him in the churches, kneeling before the tabernacle: Jesus will fill you with his love and will reveal to you the thoughts of his Heart. If you listen to him, you will feel ever more deeply the joy of belonging to his Mystical Body, the Church, which is the family of his disciples held close by the bond of unity and love.

You will also learn, as the Apostle Paul says, to let yourselves be reconciled with God (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20). Especially in the sacrament of reconciliation, Jesus waits for you to forgive you your sins and reconcile you with his love through the ministry of the priest. By confessing your sins humbly and truthfully, you will receive the pardon of God himself through the words of his minister.

What a great opportunity the Lord has given us with this sacrament to renew ourselves from within and to progress in our Christian life! I recommend that you make good use of it all the time!

Dear friends, as I said to you above, if you follow Jesus, you will never feel lonely because you are part of the Church, which is a great family in which you can grow in true friendship with so many brothers and sisters in the faith scattered in every part of the world. Jesus needs you to "renew" contemporary society.

Take care to grow in the knowledge of the faith in order to be its authentic witnesses. Dedicate yourselves to understanding Catholic doctrine ever better: Even if at times in looking at it with the eyes of the world it may seem a difficult message to accept, in it is the answer that satisfies your basic questions.

Trust your pastors and guides, bishops and priests; become actively involved in the parishes, movements, associations and ecclesial communities to experience together the joy of being followers of Christ, who proclaims and gives truth and love. And truly impelled by his truth and love, you will be able, together with other young people who are seeking the true meaning of life, to build a better future for all.

Dear friends, I am close to you with my prayers. May you generously accept the call of the Lord, who holds up to you great ideals that can make your lives beautiful and full of joy. You can be certain of it: Only by responding positively to his appeal, however demanding it may seem to you, is it possible to find happiness and peace of heart.

May the Virgin Mary accompany you on this journey of Christian commitment, and may she help you in all your good resolutions.

With these sentiments, I cordially impart a special apostolic blessing to all of you who are gathered in Nieuwegein, as well as to those who accompany you with love and wisdom on your path of human and spiritual growth.

From the Vatican, Nov. 21, 2005