Benedict XVI to Youth: Open the Doors to Christ

10,000 Celebrate the Witness of St. Francis in Assisi

ASSISI, Italy, JUNE 18, 2007 (zenit.org).- Benedict XVI told young people in Assisi that they are his joy, just as they were for Pope John Paul II.

Benedict XVI traveled to Assisi on Sunday, for a busy one-day pilgrimage marking the 800th anniversary of Francis’ conversion.

The final event of the day was a meeting with young people. Some 10,000 youth, who had been gathered since dawn in the square outside the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, were on hand for the address. The Holy Father extended the meeting for a half-hour longer than planned.

Tough questions

The youth were invited to address questions to the Holy Father. One young man, Marco Giuliani, said: “We have thousands of questions, but it is hard to find convincing answers. We are tempted to think that the truth doesn’t exist, that each person has his own truth.

“Naturally we like to be happy, but we, too, feel, like the Pope, that merely having fun will not make us happy. Help us, Holy Father, to understand, and to make St. Francis’ experience our own.”

A young woman, Ilaria Perticoni, said: “Holy Father, Francis fascinates us but it is not easy to follow him, imitate him.”

Papal responses

Benedict XVI responded: “St. Francis speaks to everyone, but I know he has a special attraction for you young people. Your great presence here confirms that, as do the questions you asked me.

“His conversion happened during the most vital time of his life, of his experiences, of his dreams. He lived 25 years without coming to terms with the meaning of life. A few months before he died he would recall that time in his life as the time that he was ‘in sin.'”

The Pope offered Francis and Clare as models for facing the numerous problems that often afflict the life of young people.

“Many youths fall victim to drug use in search of an artificial happiness, or become prey of a culture that exalts egoism,” the Holy Father said. “This was also the drama of Francis’ life before his conversion.”

“Your life’s compass,” said the Pope, taking a break from his prepared remarks, “must be the truth, because without truth the foundation for peace is lost.”

An architect of peace

He continued: “Francis’ commitment to peace is also to be seen as a form of prayer. This aspect of his life is of great contemporary importance in a world that has so much need of peace yet does not manage to achieve it.

“Francis was a man of peace and an architect of peace. He showed as much in the mildness with which he approached men of other faiths, yet without silencing his own faith in the presence of men of other faiths, as we see in his meeting with the sultan.”

Benedict XVI then invited the young people to join him in Loreto in early September for his meeting with Italian youth.

“Open the doors to Christ. Open them as Francis did, without fear, without calculations, without measure,” the Pope exhorted the young people.

He affectionately concluded, “You are, dear young people, my joy, as you were for John Paul II.”

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