Holy Father Hopes Youth Will Be a Leaven in Europe

Says Continent Is Forgetting Its Christian Roots

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LES COMBES, Italy, JULY 24, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI hopes that the hundreds of thousands of Europeans who attend World Youth Day in Cologne will be leaven of a new Christian humanism.

The Pope expressed this hope today at midday when he met with 8,000 pilgrims who gathered in the field near the Alpine chalet where he has been on vacation since July 11.

The Holy Father began his address making note of the feast of the Apostle James on Monday. The Pope added that the saint’s “relics are venerated in the famous shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, destination of innumerable pilgrims from all over Europe.”

Benedict XVI also mentioned that the Church celebrated the feast of St. Bridget of Sweden, patroness of Europe on Saturday, and on July 11, the feast of St. Benedict, “another great patron of the ‘Old World,’ who is also my patron.”

“When contemplating these saints, one pauses spontaneously to reflect on the contribution that Christianity has offered and continues to offer to the making of Europe,” he said.

“Return to yourself”

The Pontiff summarized this legacy by recalling Pope John Paul II’s address of Nov. 9, 1982, in Santiago de Compostela.

At the time John Paul II said: “I, Bishop of Rome and pastor of the universal Church, from Santiago, send to you, age-old Europe, a cry full of love: Return to yourself. Be yourself. Discover your origins. Revive your roots. Revive those authentic values that made your history glorious and your presence beneficial among the other continents.”

With that address, Benedict XVI explained, Pope John Paul II launched “the project of a Europe conscious of its own spiritual unity, based on the foundation of Christian values.”

John Paul II wanted a Europe “without borders, which does not disavow the Christian roots from which it sprang and does not renounce the authentic humanism of Christ’s Gospel,” Benedict XVI said.

“How timely this appeal still is, in the light of the recent events of the European Continent!” he said.

Vital sap

The Pope was making reference not only to the recent terrorist attacks in Europe, but also to the project of the Constitutional Treaty of the European Union, which is in limbo after being rejected by the Dutch and the French.

Also, the Preamble proposed by the European Convention rejected the inclusion of a reference to the Christian roots of Europe, as requested repeatedly by Pope John Paul II.

Benedict XVI reminded the faithful that he will travel to the ancient German city of Cologne, from Aug. 18-21, to attend the World Youth Day.

He asked for their prayers so that “the new generations, drawing their vital sap from Christ, will be able to be in European society the leaven of a renewed humanism, in which faith and reason cooperate in fruitful dialogue in the promotion of man and the making of authentic peace.”

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