By Gisèle Plantec
ROME, MARCH 18, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Youth have a treasure awaiting them in Rome, but word needs to get out so that they take advantage of it, says the director of the youth section at the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
Emmanuel Community Monsignor Francis Kohn spoke with ZENIT about this treasure, the San Lorenzo Center.
The center, run by the Pontifical Council for the Laity and entrusted to the Emmanuel Community, recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.
Benedict XVI visited the center for the anniversary. He celebrated Mass there on March 9, with some 200 people who have collaborated in the center’s work over the last 25 years.
Monsignor Kohn told ZENIT that the center was born from the “great solicitude of Pope John Paul II for the youth,” just before the Holy Year of the Redemption and just before the institution of World Youth Days.
“I think that the greatest richness of the San Lorenzo Center, and this is its mission, is to help youth discover the universality and the young face of the Church,” Monsignor Kohn said.
He explained that the youth who run the center (members of the Emmanuel Community and youth from other movements that have assisted in the center’s work), as well as those who visit the center, come from around the globe and reflect the universality of the Church.
Monsignor Kohn recalled that the center received three tasks from John Paul II: welcome, prayer and formation.
Thus, the center welcomes young pilgrims in Rome, helping them find a place to stay, and offers services for organizing trip itineraries.
“There is another dimension of welcome that could not have been foreseen at the beginning but that has developed over these 25 years,” Monsignor Kohn added. “The center is also effectively a family for many of the foreign students who live in Rome for a few years,” during their time of study or for work.
Regarding prayer, the priest said the center is “before anything else, a center of prayer. The Blessed Sacrament is exposed every day in this little, magnificent Roman church, and Mass is celebrated there every day.
“Many youth have been able to testify over these last 25 years, that there — alone or with other youth — one makes the experience of God.”
Monsignor Kohn added that the Friday afternoon Mass is “celebrated by a cardinal or a bishop of the Roman Curia, or a bishop passing through, for example on his ‘ad limina’ visit.”
“This enables the youth to discover different Churches, those of Latin America, of Asia, by way of the testimony of the prelates, but it is also an opportunity for these bishops to get to know about the center and to encounter the youth who come,” he said.
The third dimension — formation — allows the youth to go deeper in their understudying of the Church, the faith, and the bases of the spiritual life, the monsignor explained.
“This dimension has been made concrete during these 25 years in numerous conference cycles, given by personalities and witnesses of the faith,” Monsignor Kohn stated.
The priest said his desire at this point in the center’s history is that news of it continue to be spread, in Rome and outside Rome, and that it establish “tighter and deeper links with the various dioceses in the countries of the world, to take advantage of one another’s experiences.”