Speaking to a crowd young people huddled under umbrellas in Piazza Matteotti, the main square of the northern Italian city of Savona, Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday offered his words of encouragement and blessing to the city's enthusiastic youth. Telling the crowd that friendship with Jesus ensures true youth, he exhorted them never to remain "old inside."
"Dear young people, unfortunately, the rain followed me in these days, but let us take it as a sign of blessing, fertility for the land, even as a symbol of the Holy Spirit who comes and renews the earth, the earth dry of our souls," he began.
The Pope invited youth to "Always be young." He stressed that "real youth" is not a matter of age or efficiency, being cool, or following "mythical figures," but is instead about being "good and generous."
The Holy Father said that Jesus is "genuine goodness." He added that, unfortunately, many young people are "old inside.” While not lacking in earthly goods, they are missing the one thing that is important, the "someone that really fills the soul." He said there are those too, who want to stay young at all costs and mask themselves in youth, even though the time of youth is visibly past.
While the future holds much promise for youth, he said, it is also a time of uncertainty and anxiety.
"The youth have the whole future ahead of him. Everything is the future - time of hope. And the future is full of promises. To be honest, we have to say that for many the future is also unclear. ‘Will I find a job? Will I find a house? Will I find love? What will be my real future?' And before these threats the future may also appear as a great void. So many want to stop the time for fear of a future in a vacuum. They want now to consume all the beauty of life - and so the oil lamp is consumed when life would begin. It is important to choose the real promises, which open to the future - even with disclaimers. He who chooses God still has in old age a future without end and without threats."
Jesus, Pope Benedict said, is the fundamental choice for all who wish to remain young.
"He alone is the friend who never betrays, faithful to the gift of life on the Cross. Surrender to his love! …He alone can dissolve your worries and your fears and fulfill your expectations. He gave his life for us, every one of us."
The Pope said to really know Jesus, it is not enough to remain at a distance. Rather, he said to the crowd of young people, "you must follow him closely, not from afar. We must meet him in prayer, sacramental life, in the Gospel …in the great communion of the Church, in the encounter with the poor."
"Only then, knowing Jesus personally can communicate our friendship to others. We can overcome indifference. Because even when it appears sometimes that we are invincible and indifferent, and it seems that there is no need for God, in reality everybody knows that something is missing in their lives. And only having discovered Jesus do we come to understand: ‘this is what I was expecting.’ And the more we become friends of Jesus, the more we can open our hearts also to others, because they too become really young."
At the end of his meeting with the young people, the Pope encouraged young people to prepare for World Youth day and to be missionary witnesses of the Gospel among their families and communities through prayer, reconciliation, and true fraternal love.