Youth Share Experience of Church

Forum Participants Reflect on Meaning of Love

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By Carmen Elena Villa

ROCCA DI PAPA, Italy, MARCH 29, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Love, sexuality, and the increasingly secularized society were some of the main topics addressed by participants in the 10th International Youth Forum, which ended Sunday.

The conference, organized by the youth office of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, was held in Rocca di Papa, outside Rome.

Some 300 young people gathered Wednesday from various countries to reflect on the theme, «Learn to Love.»

The event included conferences, liturgies, and cultural moments, with the aim of enabling young people to reflect further on the topic of true love, which has as its source and end God himself.
 
In a conversation with ZENIT, Father Eric Jacquinet, director of the council’s youth office, described the event as «a concentration of ecclesial experience.»

«It is a drop of water that makes goodness germinate in the whole world because of the diversity in the present time,» he said.
 
In their breaks between conferences, the young people socialized, exchanged email addresses, and planned cultural activities for free time in the evening.

They spoke in different languages, translating for each other in order to communicate about the cultural and ecclesial reality in their various countries.

Impressions

ZENIT spoke with representatives of various continents to get their impressions on this event.
 
Rinora Gojani represented, Kosovo, the partially recognized nation that declared independence from
Serbia in February 2008.

«It’s the first time I represent Kosovo as my country in an international congress,» she said.
 
For Gojani, who works for her diocese, the experience of seeing so many Catholics «gives me much energy,» as her country is of Muslim majority. She told her friends how the first cathedral of her small and young country is being built in Pristina, the capital.
 
She works with the Salesian community, directing workshops on values for groups of children, many of whom are Muslims.

Gojani explained: «We cannot pronounce the name ‘Jesus;’ we can only transmit his message without mentioning him, because otherwise there could be misunderstandings.

«We think this could convert them, because we teach the word of Jesus and his love.»

Illumination
 
Another participant, Develt O’Brien, traveled to Rome in representation of the Australian episcopal conference.

«I think it is difficult to speak and share this experience in a country that is so secularized,» he said. «Because of relativism, many people do not recognize what is good and what is bad.»
 
Nonetheless, O’Brien said that the World Youth Day held in Sydney two years ago has borne much fruit.

«It’s very interesting to see changes in some parishes and youth groups,» he affirmed. «Many people have continued in the same line of experiences that we lived there.»
 
The young Australian noted that this forum «helped to deepen true love.»

«It can illumine what happens in life,» he added, «if one is capable of following what the Gospel says.»
 
Gheneim Mughannam came to the forum as a representative of Palestine and the Holy Land. «For us who come from an area such as this, it is difficult to be Christians because of the culture, language and situation we have,» he said.
 <br>Mughannam noted that living in the Holy Land gives him «a very strong witness of Jesus because he grew up in that land.»

«The situation hasn’t changed much in two thousand years,» he explained, mentioning the economic and political difficulties that have always characterized this part of the earth.

Chosen
 
Philomene Karelle Messi, representing the Archdiocese of Yaounde, Cameroon, expressed joy over being part of this event.

«I am happy to know and interact with persons of different countries with the same faith,» she said.

Messi noted that this faith has been much strengthened in her country since Benedict XVI’s visit last year. «We thank the Lord that the Pope chose Cameroon among all the countries of Africa and we keep his message in our heart,» she said.
 
Carlos Sampedro was one of the delegates from Colombia. He described the forum’s topic as «crucial.»

«The world needs witnesses of authentic love,» Sampedro said. «We are gathered to reflect on what love means, apply it in our lives, and deepen in it with our faith.»
 
«It is difficult to summarize,» he said, «but I believe that what characterizes this meeting is the joy of seeing persons in which my faith is reflected and with whom I share similar experiences of the apostolate, of concerns for the Church.»
 
Sampedro noted: «All the interventions were very interesting: The Holy Father’s greeting was the culmination, and he outlined the horizon of true love and encounter with the Lord.

«We must take this up and go to our countries to transmit this experience of formation.»

In his message to the 10th International Youth Forum, Benedict XVI said, «Man is made to love; his life is fully realized only if he lives in love.»

The Pope urged the youth participating in the forum «to search with all their heart to discover their vocation to love, as persons and as baptized.»

«This is the key to the whole of existence,» he explained. «Thus they will be able to invest all their energies in approaching the goal day after day, sustained by the Word of God and by the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist.»

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Benedict XVI’s message to youth forum: http://zenit.org/article-28740?l=english

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