Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 22, 2005
Put joy back into Christianity
Pope wants a new wave of belief to ignite WYD pilgrims
By JOHN THAVIS
Catholic News Service
Pope Benedict XVI said his goal for World Youth Day is to communicate the joy of being a Christian and convince young people that the faith is not a stale set of rules.
The pope expressed the hope that the youth gathering in Germany could help ignite a new wave of belief among Europe's younger generations, as an antidote to the continent's "fatigue" and the loss of its Christian roots.
Pope Benedict, who will personally close the youth day celebrations in Cologne Aug. 21, made the remarks to Vatican Radio in the first interview of his papacy. The radio broadcast the 15-minute interview in German Aug. 14 and made a transcript available in several languages.
Hope and energy
The pope said he was looking forward to the Cologne encounters because, while young people are "full of problems," they are also full of hope and energy.
"Young people contain the dynamic of the future. An encounter with them leaves people more invigorated, more joyful and open," he said.
"I would like to show them how beautiful it is to be Christian, because the widespread idea which continues to exist is that Christianity is composed of laws and bans which one has to keep and, hence, is something toilsome and burdensome," he said.
"I want to make clear that it is not a burden . . . but it is like having wings," he said.
"As Christians we are never alone - in the sense that God is always with us, but also in the sense that we are always standing together in a large community," he said.
Asked how an "aged pope" could communicate the Church's traditional wisdom to young people, the pontiff laughed and said he would need God's help. He said he was aware that young people want to learn about life directly for themselves and "don't want someone to regurgitate it for them."
But he said he would emphasize that the Church's belief is not like old food "which we have had for 2,000 years and which is reheated again and again." Instead, he said, the Church is a rejuvenating power that draws its strength from "the fresh font of God."
Pope Benedict said there were strong forces working against the evangelization of younger generations.
"It is evident that many heavy burdens exist in our modern Western society, driving us away from Christianity. Faith and God appear to be far away. Life itself is full of possibilities and tasks. First, one wants to grasp life on one's own, to live it as fully as possible."
But he said he thought young people recognize that there is more to life than the widely promoted culture of leisure, diversion and self-fulfillment. In spite of everything they can do, buy and sell, he said, young people say to themselves: "This cannot be everything, there must be something more about it."
Respond to youth
The Church should seize this opening and try to lead youth to the "undiscovered dimensions" of Christianity and its ability to respond to their deeper questions, he said.
The pope said he was discouraged about Europe and its apparent drift away from Christian values. He said he hoped World Youth Day would give the "old" continent a new impulse of faith.
Ideally, he said, World Youth Day could end up sparking "a wave of new faith among young people, especially the youth in Germany and Europe."
He said his native Germany still has many Christian institutions, but the Church there seems so concerned with structural questions that the joy of the faith is missing.
"If this zest, this joy, to know Christ would come alive again and give the Church in Germany and Europe a new dynamic, then I think the aim of World Youth Day would be achieved," he said.