Benedict XVI met with families, teachers and young people in St. Peter’s Square on Friday and presented them with the letter he wrote on January 21 to the diocese and city of Rome concerning the importance of education. He told the young people listening to him that they must free the truth from “the many lies and distortions” of the culture with the help of their teachers and parents.
“Education has never been easy, and today it seems to be becoming more difficult than ever,” the Pope told the youth and educators.
Due to the reservations of our culture, many parents and teachers “do not even manage to understand the true nature of the mission entrusted to them. There are, in fact, too may uncertainties, too many doubts circulating in our society and in our culture, too many distorted images propagated by the social communications media,” he said.
Though there is this uncertainty, Pope Benedict continued, "we feel supported by a great hope, a deep trust" that "also in our own time it is possible to educate in goodness ... and each person is called to make his or her own contribution."
The Pope addressed parents, teachers, priests and catechists present, encouraging them to joyfully “shoulder the responsibility with which the Lord entrusts you, so that the great heritage of faith and culture - which is the most authentic treasure of this our beloved city - may not be lost in the passage from one generation to another, but rather be renewed and strengthened, and become a guide and a stimulus on our journey towards the future."
He specifically called on parents to remain firm in their love for one another and to show "a coherent witness of life" in order to help new generations "clearly to distinguish good from evil and, in their turn, to build solid rules for life that may support them through future trials. Thus you will make your children rich with that most precious and lasting inheritance which consists in the example of the daily practice of faith."
To teachers, the Holy Father emphasized the deeper goal of their profession, "Your task" cannot "be limited to supplying notions and information while ignoring the great question of truth, especially of the truth that can be a guide in life. ... In close association with parents, you are entrusted with the noble art of forming the individual."
Pope Benedict then encouraged priests, religious and catechists of Roman parishes "to be trustworthy friends in whom [children and young people] can reach out and touch Jesus' friendship with them. At the same time, be sincere and courageous witnesses of the truth that makes people free and that shows the new generations the way that leads to life."
He also called on children and young people to play a role in the development of the culture. Benedict XVI reminded them that they are called "to be participants in your own moral, cultural and spiritual development. It is up to you, then, to freely welcome in your hearts, minds and lives the heritage of truth, goodness and beauty that has accumulated over the centuries and that has its cornerstone in Jesus Christ.”
"It is up to you to renew and develop this heritage, freeing it from the many lies and distortions that often make it unrecognizable and provoke diffidence and disillusionment in you." The Pontiff reminded the young people that in doing this, "you are never alone. Not only are your parents, teachers, priests and friends near you ... but above all that God who created us and who is the secret guest of our hearts. ... He is the true hope and the solid foundation of our lives. To Him, most of all, can we entrust ourselves."