On Saturday Pope Benedict XVI addressed over 1,100 university students about missionary efforts at universities. Encouraging them to bear witness to Jesus Christ, he urged them both to help bring discussion of God back into the classroom and to overcome materialist worldviews.
The students were participants in the first European meeting of university students promoted by the Catechesis-School-University Commission of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE). The meeting’s theme was “New disciples of Emmaus: In University as Christians.”
Pope Benedict mentioned the theme of “development” several times, echoing a major topic of his recent encyclical “Caritas in veritate.”
Noting the students’ visit to the Vatican took place on the Feast of St. Benedict, the Pope said that the meeting showed to the episcopal conferences of Europe the students’ “willingness to continue along the path of cultural development, which St. Benedict knew to be vital for the human and Christian maturity of the people of Europe.”
He said this development will come about if they imitate the disciples of Emmaus and “meet the risen Lord in an authentic ecclesial experience,” especially in the celebration of the Eucharist.
“Your missionary efforts in the university environment consist, then, in bearing witness to your own personal encounter with Jesus Christ, the Truth Who illuminates the path of all mankind. ... Only in this way can we become the ferment and leaven of a society enlivened by evangelical love.”
Pope Benedict remarked that university pastoral activity must be expressed “in all its theological and spiritual implications” and must aid the young to perceive “the more profound mystery of man and of history” in their communion with Christ.
“The Christian presence in universities is becoming ever more demanding, yet at the same time fascinating, because faith is called, as it was in centuries past, to offer its indispensable service to knowledge, which is the true motor of development in modern society,” the Pope said.
Knowledge enriched by faith supports people in looking forward with hope and in overcoming the temptation of “a purely materialist vision of life and of history.”
"You are the future of Europe," the Pope told the young people. "The new amalgamated culture which is currently being forged in Europe and in the globalized world needs the contribution of intellectuals capable of bringing discussion of God back into the classroom” and to revive the desire to seek God.
“The Church in Europe places great trust in the generous apostolic commitment of all of you, aware of the challenges and difficulties but also of the great potential of pastoral work in the university environment,” he said.