Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Times: Your Holiness, what must we do? [Pope Benedict XVI in Malta]
19.4.10 by Fiona Galea Debono

Feeling emarginated from society for being devoted Catholics and from the Church for not fitting into stereotypes were the burning issues that youth representatives raised in a dialogue with Pope Benedict XVI at the Valletta Waterfront yesterday.

"God rejects no one. And the Church rejects no one. Yet in His great love, God challenges all of us to change and become more perfect," the Pontiff replied to their concerns.

"When he challenges us because something in our lives is displeasing to Him, he is not rejecting us, but asking us to become more perfect," he said to a pulsating, fervent crowd of about 10,000 youths.

Even those who were about to join the priesthood felt excluded from a society that found their vocation strange, and were not taken seriously outside the Church, despite attempts to integrate themselves, a representative of seminarians told the Pope.

"We do not feel it is just that we are held responsible for the mistakes of a few others - that we too are measured by the same yardstick - especially since we are trying to live out our vocation.

"We also hear of priests who fail others. But it seems almost as if the admission of our shortcomings is not worth anything and we are still held at arm's length by some," the speaker said.

He asked the Pope, who listened attentively, how to touch the hearts of the cold and suspicious, pointing out that "maybe in the collective consciousness of our culture, the Church seems to be a restraining force that goes against the grain, and the priest often seems a personification of this negative force".

Feeling estranged from the Church for their substance abuse, broken families and sexual orientation, but wanting to contribute to the Catholic community, another youth asked the Pope how they could believe God accepted them when His people did not.

"We understand that our way of life puts the Church in an ambiguous position, but we feel we should be treated with more compassion," their representative said.
Those close to the Church and committed to keeping it alive also felt as though they were on the outskirts of contemporary culture and were impeded from entering a dialogue with society. They turned to the Pope for guidance on how their dedication could bear fruit.

Family life was not easy today, a young couple about to tie the knot acknowledged, asking the Pope for guidance on how to live their matrimonial life as a calling from God, despite the many hurdles they faced.

In his message of hope to the youths, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about St Paul's violent persecution of the Church. "But the hatred and anger expressed in those words was completely swept away by the power of Christ's love," he told them.

"Do not be afraid," he urged the crowd in the face of opposition to the Gospel message and today's culture, which promotes values that may vary from the teachings of the Lord.

"These are often presented with great persuasive power, reinforced by the media and by social pressure from groups that are hostile to the Christian faith," he said. "You should be proud that your country defends the unborn, promotes a stable family and says no to abortion and divorce... Other nations can learn from your Christian example," he said.

Packed and pounding with enthusiastic youths, the event was a resounding success and the atmosphere of revelry in religion was tangible.

Pope Benedict XVI received a heartfelt welcome, with singing, applause and exhilaration from the energetic crowd, which spilled on to the bastions and in the boats at sea.

Michael Vassallo and his girlfriend Silvia Bugeja, both 19, looked forward to turning the papal visit into an experience they could share as a couple. Apart for their interest in ICT, faith is one of the things the two technology students share.
They agreed that being young and practising the Catholic faith was often a challenge as societal pressures tried to steer them away from religion.

"That is why it is so nice that the Pope came here to meet youths. Those who want to practise their faith can see they are not alone."

Francesco Tanti, 16, said that at times he was tempted to tell his mother he did not want to remain a Neocatechumenal member. "But, now that I met the Pope, things have changed... I felt as though I have been cleaned from the inside."

Kenneth Terribile, 16, said he was glad the Pope had come to Malta to renew the message of faith, first transmitted by St Paul, with a modern twist, while 18-year-old Christian Spiteri, a member of the Malta Red Cross, said he believed that, in today's world, it was important that youths remained in touch with their spirituality.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

No comments:

Post a Comment