During an Italian bishops gathering that discussed pastoral guidelines for the upcoming decade and emphasized the theme of education, Pope Benedict focused intently on youth and stressed the importance of viewing education as a means of “forming new generations” so “that they may know how to relate to the world.”
The Holy Father also commented on the upcoming end of the Year for Priests. Referencing the recently surfaced sex abuse scandals, he asserted that “the weaknesses and sin” of some members within the Church should not “make us forget the gratuitous and zealous service of many believers, first among them, priests.”
Pope Benedict gave his remarks at the Vatican's Synod Hall, meeting with participants of the general assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), which is meeting from May 24 through 28 to discuss its general pastoral guidelines for 2010 – 2020.
“The Holy Spirit guides the Church in the world and in history,” the Pope said, beginning his address. “Thanks to this gift from the Risen One, the Lord remains present in the midst of historical events. It is through the Spirit that we can recognize the meaning of human vicissitudes in Christ.”
Speaking on the bishops' decision to concentrate on education over the coming decade, the Holy Father noted that the area of education calls on them to “take responsibility for the new generations with a united, integral and harmonious witness which helps us to think, propose and live the truth, beauty and goodness of the Christian experience.”
Looking at modern culture, Pope Benedict observed that “the dignity of the person, the value of life, and the very meaning of truth and goodness” are sometimes doubted and that often, “nothing beyond the individual is recognized as definitive.”
Given this situation, “it becomes arduous and difficult to present new generations with the 'bread' of truth' for which it is worth spending one's life and accepting, when necessary, the rigor of discipline and the fatigue of commitment,” he said.
“Though aware of the weight of these difficulties,” the Pontiff noted, “we cannot resign ourselves to lack of confidence and despair. Education has never been easy, but we must not surrender for we would fail in the mandate the Lord Himself entrusted to us when He called us to feed His sheep with love.”
“Education,” he stressed, “means forming new generations that they may know how to relate to the world, strengthened by a significant memory, by a shared inner patrimony of real knowledge which, while recognizing the transcendent goal of life, guides thoughts, emotions and judgments.”
“The inner thirst of the young is a call for meaning, for authentic human relationships which can help them not to feel alone in the face of life's challenges...Our response is to announce God, the friend of man Who in Jesus approached each one of us. The transmission of the faith is an indispensable part of the integral formation of the person...The personal meeting with Jesus is the key to understanding God's relevance in everyday life.”
The Pope went on to emphasize to the bishops that “the quality of our witness remains a decisive factor” in the obligation to educate families, schools and parishes.
Speaking on concept of “witness” and alluding to the recently surfaced clerical sex abuse scandals, the Holy Father asserted that the “weakness and sin” of some members of the Church “must not, however, make us forget the gratuitous and zealous service of many believers, first among them, priests.”
“The special year dedicated to the clergy has sought to be an opportunity to promote their interior renewal as a condition for more incisive evangelical and ministerial commitment,” he explained. “What gives rise to scandal must, for us, translate into a profound reminder of the need to re-learn penance and accept purification; to learn, on the one hand, forgiveness and, on the other, the need for justice.”
In his concluding remarks, Benedict XVI exhorted the bishops to “never to lose faith in the young.”
“Frequent all areas of life,” he urged, “including those of the new communications technologies which now permeate culture in all its expressions. It is not a question of adapting the Gospel to the world, but of drawing from the Gospel that perennial novelty which, in all times, enables us to find the best way to announce the Word that does not fail, fecundating and serving human life. Let us, then, again present the young with the exalted and transcendent measure of life as vocation.”