VATICAN CITY, DEC. 22, 2011 ( Benedict XVI says that the solution to the problems of the world and the Church is a return to faith. And zeal for the faith is present in some places, he assured, notably in Africa and among the youth.

The Pope offered this reflection today in a speech to the Roman Curia, showing forth his ability to go to the heart of matters with simplicity and clarity.

He was frank in noting that observers recognize that "regular churchgoers are growing older all the time and that their number is constantly diminishing; that recruitment of priests is stagnating; that skepticism and unbelief are growing."

"What, then, are we to do?," the Pontiff asked. "[...] There is no doubt that a variety of things need to be done. But action alone fails to resolve the matter. The essence of the crisis of the Church in Europe is the crisis of faith. If we find no answer to this, if faith does not take on new life, deep conviction and real strength from the encounter with Jesus Christ, then all other reforms will remain ineffective."

The Holy Father went on to talk about the necessity of deep faith, and importantly, its fruits.

Referring to his trip last month to Benin, he said that "the encounter with Africa's joyful passion for faith brought great encouragement."

"None of the faith fatigue that is so prevalent here, none of the oft-encountered sense of having had enough of Christianity was detectable there," Benedict said. "Amid all the problems, sufferings and trials that Africa clearly experiences, one could still sense the people's joy in being Christian, buoyed up by inner happiness at knowing Christ and belonging to his Church. From this joy comes also the strength to serve Christ in hard-pressed situations of human suffering, the strength to put oneself at his disposal, without looking round for one’s own advantage. Encountering this faith that is so ready to sacrifice and so full of happiness is a powerful remedy against fatigue with Christianity such as we are experiencing in Europe today."

New, more youthful

The Pope went on to offer an analysis of World Youth Days, describing with five points what he called a "new, more youthful form of Christianity."

He spoke of the youth's experience of the Church's catholicity, and of their readiness to do good. Referring to the Youth Day volunteers, he said, "These young people did good, even at a cost, even if it demanded sacrifice, simply because it is a wonderful thing to do good, to be there for others. All it needs is the courage to make the leap. Prior to all of this is the encounter with Jesus Christ, inflaming us with love for God and for others, and freeing us from seeking our own ego."

The Pope spoke of adoration and confession, and lastly of joy.

He said one of the crucial explanations for the joy that characterizes World Youth Day is "this certainty, based on faith: I am wanted; I have a task in history; I am accepted, I am loved."

"Those who are unloved cannot even love themselves," the Pope warned. "This sense of being accepted comes in the first instance from other human beings. But all human acceptance is fragile. Ultimately we need a sense of being accepted unconditionally. Only if God accepts me, and I become convinced of this, do I know definitively: it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being. If ever man's sense of being accepted and loved by God is lost, then there is no longer any answer to the question whether to be a human being is good at all. Doubt concerning human existence becomes more and more insurmountable. Where doubt over God becomes prevalent, then doubt over humanity follows inevitably. We see today how widely this doubt is spreading. We see it in the joylessness, in the inner sadness, that can be read on so many human faces today. Only faith gives me the conviction: it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being, even in hard times. Faith makes one happy from deep within."

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