"The Pope Is Close to You, He Shares Your Joys and Your Pain"
VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 12, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the question-and-answer session Benedict XVI held with the youth gathered in Loreto, Italy, on Sept. 1.
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PASTORAL VISIT OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO LORETO
ON THE OCCASION OF THE AGORÀ OF ITALIAN YOUTH
PRAYER VIGIL WITH YOUNG PEOPLE
Plain of Montorso
Saturday, 1 September 2007
RESPONSES OF THE HOLY FATHER
TO QUESTIONS POSED BY YOUNG PEOPLE
Question posed by Piero Tisti and Giovanna Di Mucci:
"Many of us young people in the suburbs do not have a centre, a place or people with whom we can identify. Often we are without a history, a perspective or even a future. It seems that what we really wait for never happens. From this come the experience of solitude and at times, an improper dependence on others. Your Holiness, is there someone or something by means of which we can become important? How is it possible to hope when reality negates every dream of happiness, every project of life?".
Response of the Holy Father:
Thank you for this question and for your very realistic presentation of the situation. It is not always easy to respond concerning the peripheries of this world with great problems and we do not want to live an easy optimism; but on the other hand, we must have the courage to go forward.
I will therefore anticipate the essence of my answer: Yes, there is hope today too; each one of you is important because each is known and desired by God and God has his plan for each one. It is our task to discover and respond to it, so that despite these precarious and marginalized situations, we will be able to put into practice God's plan for us.
However, to go into detail, you have realistically presented to us the situation of a society: in the outskirts it seems hard to move ahead, to change the world for the better. Everything seems concentrated in the great centres of economic and political power, the great bureaucracies dominate, and those in the outskirts truly seem excluded from this life.
Then, one aspect of this situation of marginalization that affects so many people is that the important cells of social life that can also build centres on the fringes are fragmented: the family, which should be the place where generations meet - from great grandfather to grandchild -, should not only be a place where generations meet but also where they learn to live, learn the essential virtues, and this is in danger.
Thus, all the more should we do our utmost to ensure that the family survives, that today too, it is the vital cell, the centre in the periphery.
Therefore, the parish, the living cell of the Church, must also really be a place of inspiration, life and solidarity which helps people build together centres in the periphery. And I must say here, there is often talk about the Church in the suburbs and in the centre, which would be Rome, but in fact in the Church there are no suburbs because where Christ is, the whole centre is there.
Wherever the Eucharist is celebrated, wherever the Tabernacle stands, there is Christ; hence, there is the centre and we must do all we can to ensure that these living centres are effective, present and truly a force that counters this marginalization.
The living Church, the Church of the little communities, the parish Church, the movements, must form as many centres in the outskirts and thus help to overcome the difficulties that the leading politics obviously cannot manage to resolve, and at the same time, we must also think that despite the great focuses of power, contemporary society itself is in need of solidarity, of a sense of lawfulness, of the initiative and creativity of all.
I know that this is easier said than done, but I see here people who are working to increase the number of centres in the peripheries, to increase hope, and thus it seems to me that we should take up the initiative. The Church must be present precisely in the suburbs; Christ must be present, the centre of the world must be present.
We have seen and we see today in the Gospel that for God there are no peripheries. In the vast context of the Roman Empire, the Holy Land was situated on the fringe; Nazareth was on the margins, an unknown town. Yet that very situation was, de facto, to become the centre that changed the world!
And thus, we must form centres of faith, hope, love and solidarity, centres of a sense of justice and lawfulness and of cooperation. Only in this way will modern society be able to survive. It needs this courage, it needs to create centres even if, obviously, hope does not seem to exist. We must counter this desperation, we must collaborate with great solidarity in doing our best to increase hope, so that men and women may collaborate and live.
The world -- we see it -- must be changed, but it is precisely the mission of young people to change it! We cannot change it with our own strength alone but in communion of faith and in journeying on together. In communion with Mary, with all the Saints, in communion with Christ, we can do something essential, and I encourage you and invite you to trust in Christ, to trust in God.
Being in the great company of the Saints and moving forward with them can change the world, creating centres in the outskirts, so that the company of Saints may truly become visible and thus the hope of all may become realistic, and every one may say: "I am important in the totality of history. The Lord will help us". Thank you.
Question posed by Sara Simonetta :
"I believe in the God who has touched my heart, but I have many insecurities, questions and fears that I carry within. It is not easy to speak about God with my friends; many of them see the Church as a reality that judges youth, that opposes their desire for happiness and love. Faced with this refusal, I feel all of my solitude as human and I want to feel near God. Your Holiness, in this silence, where is God?".
Response of the Holy Father:
Yes, even though we are believers, we all know God's silence. In the Psalm we have just recited, there is this almost despairing cry: "Make haste to answer me, O Lord... Do not hide your face!", and a little while ago a book of the spiritual experiences of Mother Teresa was published and what we already all knew was a little more clearly shown: with all her charity and the power of her faith, Mother Teresa suffered from God's silence.
On the one hand, we must also bear God's silence in order to understand our brothers who do not know God.
On the other, with the Psalm we can always cry to God once again: "Answer us, show your face!".
And without a doubt, in our life, if our hearts are open, we can find the important moments when God's presence really becomes tangible even for us.
I now remember a little story that John Paul II told at the Spiritual Exercises he preached in the Vatican when he was not yet Pope. He recounted that after the war he was visited by a Russian official who was a scientist and who said to him as a scientist: "I am certain that God does not exist. Yet, if I am in the mountains, surrounded by his majestic beauty, by his grandeur, I am equally sure that the Creator does exist and that God exists".
The beauty of creation is one of the sources where we can truly touch God's beauty, we can see that the Creator exists and is good, which is true as Sacred Scripture says in the Creation Narrative, that is, that God conceived of this world and made it with his heart, his will and his reason, and he found it good.
We too must be good in order to have an open heart and to perceive God's true presence.
Then, hearing the Word of God in the solemn liturgical celebrations, in celebrations of faith, in the great music of faith, we feel this presence. I remember at this moment another little story which a Bishop on his ad limina visit told me a little while ago.
There was a very intelligent woman who was not a Christian. She began to listen to the great music of Bach, Handel and Mozart. She was fascinated and said one day: "I must find the source of this beauty", and the woman converted to Christianity, to the Catholic faith, because she had discovered that this beauty has a source, and the source is the presence of Christ in hearts, it is the revelation of Christ in this world.
Hence, great feasts of faith, of liturgical celebration, but also personal dialogue with Christ: he does not always respond, but there are times when he really responds. Then there is the friendship, the company of faith.
Now, gathered here in Loreto, we see that faith unites, friendship creates a company of travelling companions. And we sense that all this does not derive from nothing but truly has a source, that the silent God is also a God who speaks, that he reveals himself and above all, that we ourselves can be witnesses of his presence, and from our faith a light truly shines also for others.
Thus, I would say on the one hand, we must accept that God is silent in this world, but we must not be deaf to his words or blind to his appearance on so many occasions. We see the Lord's presence, especially in creation, in the beautiful liturgy, in friendship within the Church, and full of his presence, we can also give light to others.
Thus, I come to the second part, or rather, the first part of your question: it is difficult to speak to friends today about God and perhaps even more difficult to talk about the Church, because they see in God only the limit of our freedom, a God of commandments, of prohibitions, and the Church as an institution that limits our freedom, that imposes prohibitions upon us.
Nonetheless, we must try to make the living Church visible to them, not this idea of a centre of power in the Church with these labels, but the community of companions where, in spite of all life's problems that exist for everyone, is born our joy of living.
Here, a third memory springs to mind. I was in Brazil, in Fazenda da Esperança, this great community where drug addicts are treated and rediscover hope, the joy of living in this world; and they witnessed what the actual discovery that God exists meant for their recovery from despair.
They thus understood that their life has meaning and they rediscovered the joy of being in this world, the joy of facing the problems of human life.
Therefore, in every human heart, despite all the problems that exist, is a thirst for God, and when God disappears, the sun that gives light and joy also disappears.
This thirst for the infinite that is in our hearts is also demonstrated even in the reality of drugs: the human being wants to extend the quality of life, to have more than life, to have the infinite, but drugs are a lie, they are a fraud, because they do not extend life but destroy it.
The great thirst that speaks to us of God and sets us on the path that leads to him is true, but we must help one another. Christ came to create a network of communion in the world, where all together we might carry one another, and thus help one another together to find the ways that lead to life and to understand that the Commandments of God are not limits to our freedom but the paths that guide us to the other, toward the fullness of life.
Let us pray to the Lord to help us understand his presence, to be full of his Revelation, his joy, to help one another to go forward in the company of faith and with Christ to increasingly find the true Face of God, and hence, true life.