Pope stresses Church's hope in young people

"The Church has confidence in the young" and needs their lively participation, Pope Benedict XVI insisted, while also underscoring the threat of youth being pushed to the margins of society by unemployment and the crisis in education.

"Although we are aware of the many problematic situations … we wish to renew our faith in the young and reaffirm that the Church looks to their condition and their cultures as an essential and inescapable" focal point for its ministry, the Pope told the Pontifical Council for Culture on Feb. 7.

The emphasis on young people was brought home by the way the council kicked-off its Feb. 6-9 full assembly on "Emerging Youth Cultures" in Rome. Gathered at the main hall of LUMSA university, cardinals, bishops and lay people attended a concert by the Italian rock band "The Sun."

The president of the council, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, told CNA before the concert that a university was chosen as a venue because they are centers of youth culture.

The council decided to begin with a rock concert because music plays an important role in youth culture.

"If we simply walk along the streets of a city," the cardinal observed, "we see the youth and we see that almost all of them are wearing headphones. They listen to music, and this forms a part of their language."

Pope Benedict received participants in the assembly on Thursday afternoon in the Vatican's Clementine Hall.

He told the council members that he hopes their discussions will contribute to "the Church's work in the lives of young people, which is a complex and articulated reality" that can no longer be understood using old paradigms.

The Pope then took stock of the current situation youth around the world are living in.

In particular, he is worried about the "widespread climate of instability" that is affecting the cultural, political, and economic areas. Many young people are having difficulty finding work, he noted, and this has psychological and relational repercussions.

"The uncertainty and fragility that characterize so many young people often pushes them to the margins, making them almost invisible and absent from society's cultural and historical processes," Benedict XVI remarked.

And this marginalization can impact the affective and emotional spheres, he said, giving birth to "apparently contradictory phenomena like the spectacularization of private life and a narcissistic selfishness.

"Even the religious dimension, the experience of faith and membership in the Church are often lived from an individualistic and emotional perspective," he reflected.

But Pope Benedict also stressed the Church's confidence in young people.

"She hopes in them and in their energy. She needs their vitality in order to continue living the mission entrusted to her by Christ with renewed enthusiasm," he stated.

The Pope said that he sees some positive aspects in youth culture today, including an increase in volunteering, profound and sincere faith experiences, and efforts to "build societies capable of respecting the freedom and dignity of others, beginning with the smallest and weakest."

He finished his message to the council by saying that he very much hopes "that the Year of Faith will be, also for the younger generations, a precious opportunity to rediscover and strengthen the friendship with Christ from which springs the joy and enthusiasm to profoundly change cultures and societies."

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