Pope Francis quoted the founder of Opus Dei as he greeted some 3,000 university students who attended Wednesday’s general audience as part of the UNIV program sponsored by the prelature.
The Holy Father spoke only in Italian during the audience, but mentioned the group’s English-speaking participants. To the Italian-speakers of the group, he added:
“In particular, I salute the university students participating in the international meeting promoted by the Prelature of Opus Dei. Dear friends, you have come to Rome in Holy Week for an experience of faith and spiritual enrichment. Thank you for your prayers and for your affection for the Pope. With your presence in the academic world, may every one of you realize what St. Josemaria Escrivá proclaimed: ‘It is in the midst of the most material things of the earth that we must sanctify ourselves, serving God and all men’ (Conversations, no. 13).”‘
The UNIV program has been gathering an international group of university students in Rome since 1968.
Throughout the week, sponsors provide students with various cultural encounters, conferences, roundtables, showrooms and concerts. They’ve attended audiences with Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI.
Those attending the meeting this year are students from more than 200 universities around the world. The topic this year is “Discover Human Identity in the Digital World.”
At the end of Wednesday’s audience a delegation of the students gave Pope Francis a film report titled “How to Live the Faith at 20 Years of Age,” made for the Year of Faith and as preparation for the World Youth Day (WYD) of Rio de Janeiro.
A forum spokesman, Giovanni Vassallo, said, “as students we receive with joy the Pope’s appeal to receive the whole of humanity with affection and tenderness, especially the poorest, the weakest, the littlest. We have been very touched by your invitation to be custodians of creation; we feel called to build the world of tomorrow.”
One of the main activities of the congress is the “Forum of Social Initiatives,” which is dedicated to the presentation of volunteer projects led by university students. The participants will collect funds to support projects in education and formation in Africa, promoted by the Onlus Harambee Africa International and carried out in countries such as Benin, Kenya, Nigeria and the Congo, through different civil and religious institutions.
“UNIV is a wonderful occasion in which young people from all over the world come to Rome not only to meet in a congress but to share experiences and to renew their desire to be committed to society,” said Vassallo.
“Rome is the heart of Christianity: each one of us will return to his country taking with him this experience of universality and faith,” he added. “This university meeting seeks to overcome prejudices: a dialogue is possible between persons and knowledge, between faith and reason, between science and revelation.”