Here is a translation of the message Pope Francis sent this morning to the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, and to participants in the 4th European Congress on Youth Ministry. The three-day conference began today in Rome. It is sponsored by the laity council in collaboration with the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences on the theme: A Young Church, Witness of the Joy of the Gospel.
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To the Venerable Brother
Lord Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko
President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity
I express my cordial greeting to you, to the Bishops, and to the National Directors of the young people gathered these days at Rome for the 4th European Congress on Youth Ministry, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, in collaboration with the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, on the theme: A Young Church, Witness of the Joy of the Gospel.
After the three meetings of the 90s, you are undertaking again to “walk together through the streets of Europe.” I invite you to recall that, as we walk while conversing and discussing together, Jesus approaches us in person and walks with us (cf. Luke 24:15). As the disciples of Emmaus, we let Him open our eyes to recognize Him, helping us to find in Himself the meaning of this difficult but exciting piece of history that is given to us to live together.
You, who work in the field of youth ministry, do valuable work for the Church. Young people are in need of this service: of adults and mature contemporaries in the faith who accompany them on their path, helping them to find the way that leads to Christ. Much more than the promotion of a series of activities for young people, this ministry consists in walking with them, accompanying them personally in the complex and at times difficult contexts in which they are immersed.
Youth ministry is called to gather the questions of young people of today and, from them, to initiate a true and honest dialogue to bring Christ into their lives. And in this connection, a true dialogue can be engaged in by one who lives a personal relation with the Lord Jesus, which overflows into the relation with brothers.
You have come together for this reason, to create a “network” of acquaintances and friendships at the European level, thanks to which those in charge of the Continent’s youth pastoral ministry can share experiences had “in the field” and the questions that flow from them. We are well aware that there is much to be done. I ask you not to ever tire of proclaiming the Gospel, with your life and word: Today’s Europe is in need of rediscovering it!
Therefore, I wish to encourage you to consider the present reality of European young people with the look of Christ. He teaches you to see not only the challenges and problems, but to recognize the many seeds of love and hope scattered in the terrain of this Continent, which has given the Church a great number of men and women Saints, and many of these are young! Let us not forget that we have been given the task to sow, but it is God who makes the seeds grow that we scatter (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:7).
While you sow the Lord’s Word in this vast field that is European youth, you have the occasion to witness the reasons of the hope that is in you, with gentleness and respect (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). You can help young people to realize that faith is not opposed to reason, and thus support them to become joyful protagonists of the evangelization of their contemporaries.
Finally, dear friends, in this year that calls attention at the same time to the family and to consecrated life, youth pastoral ministry is called to propose to young people a path of vocational discernment, to prepare themselves to follow Jesus on the way of conjugal and family life or on that of a special consecration to the service of the Kingdom of God.
I pray to the Lord, through the intercession of the Holy Virgin, that the work of these days is rich in fruits for your commitment in youth ministry and, yet first, for your path of holiness, because it is holiness that makes the Church grow and opens hearts to receive the Gospel. I ask you, please, to pray for me and I bless you affectionately.
From the Vatican, December 11, 2014
FRANCISCUS[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]