Madrid Prelate: Youth Might Not Realize They Await Christ

Says After 2,000 Years, Jesus Is Still Little-Known, Little-Loved

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MADRID, Spain, FEB. 28, 2011 ( World Youth Day this August has only one objective: proclaiming Christ.

That’s because, according to the archbishop of Madrid, the host city, young people are awaiting Christ, whether they know it or not.

The program of the next WYD is «once again clearly Christological, centered on Jesus Christ,» Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela said. «To some, this seems too obvious. […] They would prefer supposedly more specific focuses, or ones more adapted to the needs of young people.»

However, the cardinal asserted, «after 2,000 years of evangelization, the Church faces the fact today that Jesus Christ continues to be little known and not much loved.»

The Church, he stressed, «has nothing other to offer young people and all men of today than Jesus Christ. There is no salvation outside of him. And they need it urgently.»

Cardinal Rouco offered this analysis during his opening address at the 97th plenary assembly of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, of which he is president.

The 74-year-old cardinal also spoke about how young people have changed since the first World Youth Day, called by Pope John Paul II in 1985.

The Spanish prelate has a good perspective on that change, having hosted the fourth WYD, held in 1989 in Santiago, where he was bishop at the time.

He spoke of the Polish Pope’s «apostolic discernment,» inspired by «great love of Christ and of young people,» which led to a new method of evangelization, «so appropriate for the young generations of the last decades of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.»

Against the tide

Cardinal Rouco described Christianity as an attempt to «go against the current, in the midst of a world that suffers from uncertainty and yet often seems to enjoy it, closing itself to any proposal of truth.»

The Church, he said, wants to offer youth «the firmness of the faith that the Lord makes possible.»

But the audience is different, the cardinal proposed. He reflected on how youth who first responded to John Paul II’s call faced a different world.

«Those, who described themselves as ‘youth 2000,’ had already had time to experience the deception of the utopias nourished 20 years earlier in ‘May of 68,'» he said. Those youth looked toward the new millennium as a symbol of truer ideals.

«The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was the symbol of a whole process of collapse of the old revolutionary utopias of the past century,» the cardinal continued. The fourth WYD was held just weeks before those historical event occurred.

Within the Church, Cardinal Rouco recalled, the Second Vatican Council was bearing fruits.

«The new impulses for a new evangelization were noted everywhere and in the most diverse environments: among priests, religious and in the secular world,» he said. «Hence, it wasn’t strange to perceive among young people of the Church a new nostalgia for God and a hidden longing to encounter Jesus Christ again, with his truth and his love.»

Today’s crop

The WYD host said today’s youth have also experienced false utopias and are also seeking a «true, solid liberty that will enable them to build the house of life.»

Now, explained the cardinal, «the human ideal of re-conquered liberty — very old and very new in the particular expressions of the modern culture of liberty — has been proposed and explored in a thousand ways in the last decades.»

In this context, the «world of cybernetics» has an important role, as it creates «a new situation of globalized intercommunication of which young people are the main actors,» as demonstrated by «the events of the last weeks and of today in the Arab world.»

The Internet is informing and communicating, but also propagating every kind of idea, «not excluding those that are in less accord with human dignity,» the cardinal said. Hence, «young people find themselves particularly exposed to the disorienting influence of relativism, that is, of an attitude guided by ‘everything is OK.'»

Moreover, given the economic, sociopolitical, cultural and ethical crisis, the cardinal reflected, «it isn’t strange that many young people, harshly affected by such crises, see their lives immersed in the greatest uncertainty.»

Thus, WYD still needs to evangelize.

The cardinal affirmed, «We must have no doubts in this regard: One of the most important missionary commitments of the Church at the beginning of the 21st century must be a persistent evangelization of young people that will enable them to live rooted and built up in Christ, with an unbreakable firmness of faith.»

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