VATICAN CITY, MARCH 31, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II challenged Catholic university students to make their fellow students “see” Christ through the witness of their life.
“It is not enough to speak about Jesus to young undergraduates,” the Pope said in a message sent to the 8th International Youth Forum.
“We must also show Jesus to them, through the eloquent witness of our lives,” he said.
The forum, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, is being held today through Sunday in Rocca di Papa, near Rome.
It has gathered 300 young people, ages 20 to 26, who are involved in the life of the Church and the university. The participants come from more than 80 countries and represent more than 30 associations and movements.
The forum is addressing the topic “Young People and the University: Witnessing to Christ in the University World.”
“Fortunately,” the Pope said in his text, “the influence of ideologies and utopias fomented by the messianic atheism, [which] had such an impact in the past on many university environments, has waned considerably today.”
“But there are also new schools of thought, which reduce reason to the horizon of experimental science alone, and hence to technical and instrumental knowledge, sometimes enclosing it within a skeptical and nihilistic vision,” he stated.
“These attempts to evade the issue of the deepest meaning of existence are not only futile; they can also become dangerous,” the papal message warned.
“Jesus is the truth of the universe and of history, the meaning and the destiny of human existence, the foundation of all reality! It is your responsibility, you who have welcomed this Truth as the vocation and certitude of your lives, to demonstrate its reasonableness in the university environment and in your work there,” John Paul II wrote to the young Catholics.
“How deeply does the truth of Christ affect your studies, research, knowledge of reality, and the comprehensive education of the human person?” the Holy Father asked in his message.
“It may happen that, even among those who profess to be Christians, some will behave in the university as if God did not exist. Christianity is not a mere subjective religious preference, which is ultimately irrational, and relegated to the private sphere,” he stated.
“We must demonstrate that faith and reason are not irreconcilable, but that, faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth,” the Pope insisted.
“But if your faith is linked merely to fragments of tradition, fine sentiments or a generic religious ideology, you will certainly not be able to withstand the impact of the environment you are in,” he cautioned.
Therefore, John Paul II recommended prayer to the students and to “seek out sound university professors and lecturers” and not “remain isolated in what are often difficult environments, but play an active part in the life of Church associations, movements and communities operating in the university environment. Draw close to the university parishes, and allow the chaplaincies to help you.”