VATICAN CITY, APRIL 10, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI told some 6,500 university students that happiness depends on an encounter with Christ and he invited them to communicate this experience to their contemporaries.
“Never forget, dear young people, that your — our — happiness depends, in the end, on the encounter and friendship with Jesus,” the Pope told the students gathered for an audience today in Paul VI Hall.
The students, from 32 countries, are participating in the UNIV congress on “Culture and the Means of Social Communication.” They are taking part in formative activities promoted by the Opus Dei Prelature.
The Holy Father, when addressing the participants in Italian, noted that this annual meeting of the Pope with university students during Holy Week in Rome is now a tradition.
The students congratulated Benedict XVI, who will celebrate his birthday on April 16, Easter Sunday, singing the university hymn “Gaudeamus Igitur,” to which they added the words “Vivat semper iuvenis, Papa dilectissimus.” (Always stay young, beloved Holy Father!)
Kenyan Anthony Gichukim, UNIV’s president, spoke on behalf of those present.
When greeting the students and in response to the address of the prelate of the Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarría Rodríguez, the Pope expressed the wish that these days in Rome will allow them to encounter “Christ more intimately, especially through contemplation of his passion, death and resurrection.”
“For each one of you, as for the apostles,” the Holy Father said, “the encounter with the divine Teacher who calls you friends may be the beginning of an extraordinary venture: that of becoming apostles among your contemporaries to lead them to live their own experience of friendship with God, made Man, with God who has made himself my friend.”
Benedict XVI invited the youths to consider Jesus “as one of your best friends, more than that, as the first.”
“Then you will see how friendship with him will lead you to open to others, considering them as brothers, keeping with each one a relationship of sincere friendship,” he said.
Recalling a theme from his encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est,” the Pope emphasized that Jesus Christ “is, precisely, ‘the incarnate love of God,’ and only in him is it possible to find the strength to offer human affection and supernatural charity to brothers in a spirit of service that is manifested above all in understanding.”
Benedict XVI acknowledged “it is something great to be understood by the other and to begin to understand the other.”
“He who has discovered Christ cannot but lead others to him, as it is not possible to keep a great joy to oneself; it must be communicated,” he added.
According to the Pope, this is what the founder of Opus Dei, St. Josemaría Escrivá, called the “apostolate of friendship,” which he himself described as “‘personal, sacrificial, sincere friendship: using the informal you, from heart to heart.”
“Every Christian is invited to be a friend of God and with his grace attract his own friends to him,” he concluded.
This was the first audience Benedict XVI gave to the students of UNIV.
The UNIV meetings, organized by the Institute for University Cooperation, began in 1968 under the inspiration of Monsignor Escrivá.