.- In advance of the 22nd annual World Youth Day, which will be celebrated this Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI met with thousands of Roman youth on Thursday night, leading them in a penance service, and hearing some of their individual confessions. The Holy Father encouraged the young people to encounter God’s love in the Sacrament and challenged them to then go forth, living a life of Christian love.
The Holy Father welcomed the thousands of young people to a penance service in St. Peter’s Basilica, a liturgy he called, “a meeting around the Cross, a celebration of God’s mercy which in the Sacrament of Confession each of you can personally experience.”
“In every man’s heart is a thirst for love,” Pope Benedict told the young people, mentioning the theme of this year’s World Youth Day: “As I loved you, you must love one another.”
Christians, he said, “can even less live without love. Actually, if a Christian does not find true love, he cannot even say he is really a Christian.” For in love, a Christian is most like Christ, the Pope said.
“God’s love for us was made visible in the mystery of the Cross,” explained the Pope, calling it a “crucified love” that “has its height in the joy of Resurrection and Ascension” and “in the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Through this same Holy Spirit, the Holy Father continued, “this very tonight, sins will be remitted and forgiveness and peace will be granted.”
“Through Baptism,” the Pope added, “you are already born to a new life because of God’s grace.” However, since this grace does not overcome fallen human nature, he said, God has given man, “the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Confession.”
“Every time you do it with faith and devotion,” Benedict told the youth, “God’s love and mercy move your heart closer to Christ’s minister. To him you express your pain for the sins you have committed, with the firm intention not to sin ever again” and “with the willingness to receive with joy the acts of penance that he shows to you to correct the damage caused by your sins. Thus you experience forgiveness for your sins; reconciliation with the Church; the recovery, if lost, of your state of grace.”
“Christ attracts us to Him to join all of us, so that in our turn we learn to love our neighbors with the same love as His,” he emphasized.
Today, “there is such a need of a new ability to love our neighbors. As you leave this celebration”, be ready “to dare love in your families, in your relations with your friends and even with those who have offended you. Be ready to leave your mark, through a truly Christian testimony, on the ambiences in which you study and work, be ready to work hard in your parish communities”, in the associations and “in every sphere of society,” he challenged the young people.
After offering his words, the Holy Father stepped into a confessional box to join over 200 other priests in individually hearing the young peoples’ confessions.