Thousands of joy-filled African youth gathered in the Dos Coquerios Stadium in Luanda, Angola on Saturday afternoon to meet Pope Benedict XVI. In a heartfelt message to the young people, the Pope addressed their doubts and fears and challenged them to courageously build a future with God.
Well aware that it was only in 2002 that Angolans threw off the scourge of the 27 year-old civil war, Pope Benedict prepared for his meeting with the youth by listening to some of them share their doubts and ask him questions. As he spoke to the throng of youth this afternoon he said, "The embrace I exchanged with them is, naturally, an embrace which I offer to all of you."
The Holy Father seemed to draw energy from the youthful crowd, declaring "Meeting young people is good for everyone!" as he began his address.
"You may have your share of difficulties," the Pope said, "but you are filled with great hope, great enthusiasm and a great desire to make a new beginning. My young friends, you hold within yourselves the power to shape the future.
But the Pontiff was careful not to point them to their own abilities as the source of change. "I encourage you to look to that future through the eyes of the Apostle John," who wrote in Revelation, "I saw a new Heaven and a new earth… and I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven, from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold the dwelling of God is with men.’"
"Yes, my friends! God makes all the difference… and more! God changes us; he makes us new! This is what he has promised: ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ It is true!" Pope Benedict exclaimed.
In the crowd of young people were some who have been maimed or disabled by the war of landmines and the Holy Father spoke directly to them:
"I think of the countless tears that have been shed for the loss of your relatives and friends. It is not hard to imagine the dark clouds that still veil the horizon of your fondest hopes and dreams. In your hearts I see doubt, a doubt which you have expressed to me today. You are saying: ‘Here is what we have. There is no visible sign of the things you are talking about! The promise is backed by God’s word – and we believe it – but when will God arise and renew all things?’"
"Jesus’ answer is the one he gave to his disciples: ‘Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?’ But you persist, dear young people: ‘Yes! But when will this happen?’ The Apostles asked Jesus a similar question, and his answer was: ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth.’ See how Jesus does not leave us without an answer; he tells us one thing very clearly: renewal starts from within; you will receive a power from on high. The power to shape the future is within you."
Likening the healing work of God within them to the parable of the Sower and the Seed, the Pope told the youth that they are the seeds God has planted the future in.
"My dear friends, you are a seed which God has sown in the world, a seed that contains power from on high, the power of the Holy Spirit. And yet, the only way to pass from the promise of life to actually bearing fruit is to give your lives in love, to die for love."
Pope Benedict then encouraged the youth to "not be afraid to make definitive decisions" despite the many uncertainties that they see.
"You do not lack generosity – that I know! But the idea of risking a lifelong commitment, whether in marriage or in a life of special consecration, can be daunting. You might think: ‘The world is in constant flux and life is full of possibilities. Can I make a life-long commitment now, without knowing what unforeseen events lie in store for me? By making a definitive decision, would I not be risking my freedom and tying my own hands?’ These are the doubts you feel, and today’s individualistic and hedonist culture aggravates them. Yet when young people avoid decisions, there is a risk of never attaining to full maturity!" the Pope said.
"Take courage! Dare to make definitive decisions, because in reality these are the only decisions which do not destroy your freedom, but guide it in the right direction, enabling you to move forward and attain something worthwhile in life," Benedict XVI encouraged.
"There is no doubt about it: life is worthwhile only if you take courage and are ready for adventure, if you trust in the Lord who will never abandon you."
The Pope closed his speech by calling on the young people of Angola to "unleash the power of the Holy Spirit within you, the power from on high! … This is the life worthy of being lived, and I commend it to you from my heart. May God bless the young people of Angola!"