Pope Benedict XVI visited a center for mentally and physically disabled young people as part of his World Youth Day visit to Madrid.
“Dear friends, our society, which all too often questions the inestimable value of life, of every life, needs you,” the Pope told those at the Instituto San Jose in Madrid on August 20.
“In a decisive way you help to build the civilization of love. What is more, you play a leading role in that civilization.”
Pope Benedict met many of those who use the center, including 20-year-old Antonio who is both mentally and physically handicapped. He explained to the Pope how his parents' love had helped him overcome adversity.
“It was thanks to the love they showed me, even when faced with what could turn out to be an obstacle in their lives, they decided to look toward the future,” the young man said. “This attitude helped us to excel. It helped us to never give in.”
In response, the Pope said that the modern world often struggles to cope with suffering, such that “when suffering appears on the horizon of a young life, we are shaken; perhaps we ask ourselves: 'Can life still be something grand, even when suffering unexpectedly enters it?'”
But the Pope pointed out that “the true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer,” adding that “a society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through compassion, is a cruel and inhuman society.”
Madrid’s Instituto San Jose was founded in 1898 and is run by the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God. The Pope praised the commitment of all those involved in the center, saying it proclaims “the greatness to which every human being is called: to show compassion and loving concern to the suffering, just as God himself did.”
He said the presence of the young people at the institution “awakens in our often hardened hearts a tenderness which opens us to salvation,” so that the “lives of these young people surely touch human hearts, and for that reason we are grateful to the Lord for having known them.”
Earlier in the day the Pope also met with the organizers of World Youth Day at the Papal Nuncio’s residence in Madrid to thank them for their efforts.
“Only love for the Church and zeal to evangelize young people can explain this generous commitment of time and energy, which will bear much apostolic fruit,” the Pope told those who have worked for years to make this week’s events possible. His thanks went out to both civil and ecclesiastical authorities.
“Since Jesus tells us that not even a cup of water given in his name will go without reward,” said the Pope, “how much more will be rewarded the daily and unceasing contribution to the organization of a church event of such importance as the one we are now celebrating!”