COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 21, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI appealed to more than 1 million young people to become new missionaries in a world that is forgetting God.
In his homily at the closing Mass of World Youth Day, the Pope said: “Anyone who has discovered Christ must lead others to him. A great joy cannot be kept to oneself. It has to be passed on.”
The Mass, celebrated today in the Marienfeld esplanade, some 27 kilometers (17 miles) from the center of Cologne, ended with the ceremony to “Hand Over the Cross” to the young people present and to give them a “missionary sending” to all continents.
Youths “are ready to leave Cologne as young apostles of the third millennium,” said Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, in his address to the Pontiff at the opening of the concluding ceremony. The Council for the Laity oversees World Youth Days.
During his homily, Benedict XVI said that in “vast areas of the world today there is a strange forgetfulness of God.”
“It seems as if everything would be just the same even without him,” he continued. “But at the same time there is a feeling of frustration, a sense of dissatisfaction with everyone and everything.
“People tend to exclaim: ‘This cannot be what life is about!’ Indeed not. And so, together with forgetfulness of God there is a kind of new explosion of religion.”
The Pope warned, however, that religion could become a “consumer product.”
“People choose what they like, and some are even able to make a profit from it,” he said. “But religion constructed on a ‘do-it-yourself’ basis cannot ultimately help us. It may be comfortable, but at times of crisis we are left to ourselves.”
Thus the Holy Father appealed to young people gathered in Cologne to “help people discover the true star that points out the way to us: Jesus Christ!”
“Let us seek to know him better and better, so as to be able to guide others to him with conviction,” he stated.
Faith in community
As a means to discover and proclaim Christ, the Pope mentioned active participation in Sunday Mass, the sacrament of reconciliation, meditation on Scripture, and reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its recently published Compendium.
“Build communities based on faith!” exhorted Benedict XVI. “In recent decades movements and communities have come to birth in which the power of the Gospel is keenly felt.
“The spontaneity of new communities is important, but it is also important to preserve communion with the Pope and with the bishops. It is they who guarantee that we are not seeking private paths, but are living as God’s great family, founded by the Lord through the Twelve Apostles.”
Benedict XVI expressed his satisfaction with the welcome that young people gave him. Putting his papers aside, he thanked them at the start of the Mass, and expressed his wish to greet them personally “one by one.”
The majority of young people present had spent a cold night on the Marienfeld, after meeting with the Pope for a three-hour vigil. Their exhaustion, and the cold and mist, did not stop them from greeting the Pope with applause.