Youth, the Church’s Great Hope

Interview With the Archbishop of Toledo

ARANJUEZ, Spain, JULY 23, 2008 ( The Church can have great hope in the youth of today who are showing themselves to be young, committed leaders, according to the archbishop of Toledo, Spain.

Cardinal Antonio Cañizares participated in the World Youth Day celebrations in Sydney, Australia, and upon returning he inaugurated a summer course Monday at King Juan Carlos University titled “On Being a Christian in a Secularized Society.”

During the conference the cardinal met with journalists and answered several questions on the 2011 World Youth Day, to be held in Spain, which were published by the Catholic news agency Veritas.

Q: How did you find the Sydney meeting and what do you think of Madrid being the next venue for World Youth Day?

Cardinal Canizares: With regard to Sydney, it was a world meeting of youth that, among other characteristics, enjoyed the presence of older youths, not the young adolescents that often have a large presence, which means that we are looking at young Christian leaders, which is a great hope.

I can attest to many testimonies — I heard in the catecheses, of which I gave three — of various countries of Latin America, with a Christian commitment, with a presence in public life, with a presence in universities and in the world of thought, which is really admirable, and makes one place great hope in this youth, a hope that is growing, that is extending, which is reflected in a new way of thinking, of feeling and, consequently, of acting. The social movements are slower than they seem, but we certainly came across a dynamism for the future that is very great in this youth.

Benedict XVI was perfectly attuned; more than that, I believe he was a great light that was already illuminating these young people. The Pope said very simple things, enormously simple, enormously concrete, which everyone could understand, but which are really the keys to the future of society and of humanity.

With regard to Madrid, it is an event that we have all received joyfully, with great happiness, also with great hope and a great sense of responsibility.

The Church in Spain, and the Diocese of Madrid, will have to prepare very well during these three years, a short time, for this new world meeting of youth, so that not only for Spanish youth but for youth worldwide, it will be a new stage, and a new milestone for that new society the Pope pointed to and which he encouraged youth to foster.

Q: World Youth Day 2011 will coincide with the end of the present governing administration. Will this have an effect?

Cardinal Canizares: That doesn’t change things. The Church does not move with political ups and downs and political events. The Church offers simply what she has, and what she has is very simple, as Peter said at the entrance to the temple: “Gold and silver I do not have, but I give you what I have. […] In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, get up and walk.”

In 2011, or in 2015, or in any year, the Church will say the same thing: “I have no power, I don’t want power, I don’t want to dominate consciences, I simply want to offer what I have, and what I have is Jesus Christ and, in the name of Jesus Christ, she says to humanity: Align yourself with her, because it is where you have a true future.”

Q: Does the fact that Benedict XVI has chosen Spain again for a World Youth Day imply a pat on the back for the Church in Spain?

Cardinal Canizares: Over the past days I have said — both in the catecheses as well as in statements to the media — that the Church is a young Church, not only of young people, but a young Church with vitality, with a future. And I believe that to hold a world youth meeting here will strengthen that Church in her permanent youth, in her permanent future, in her great vitality.

I believe that the Church in Spain is not a Church of complexes, a Church that is withdrawn; she is a Church that has life, and I believe that the world meeting of youth will make all that life within the Church emerge, which is made up of a whole multi-secular history.

It must not be forgotten that in Spain — in Toledo, specifically — Europe was born, and that Spain that we are was born, an identity that in fact leads to recognition of the person, of the person’s dignity, etc.

Hence, the 2011 youth meeting will imply for the Church a revitalization of what it is, to offer the message it has, which is none other than God’s yes to man: the person of Jesus Christ.

Q: Is the Church separating herself from society or society from the Church?

Cardinal Canizares: I would not say that the Church is separating from society. I believe that every day she is more inserted in the society. Sydney is a clear example of this. Thus, for example, it was also acknowledged by the prime minister of the government of Australia, who recognized the role that the Church has in society and in history.

When the Church is faithful to herself, she is also faithful to man and faithful to her own future. One should ask if society is not separating itself from itself; if it is not separating from the roots that constitute the basis of genuine social coexistence.

Q: The prime minister of Australia, the president of the United States have acknowledged before the Pope the importance of religion for society. Why is it so difficult for our authorities to do so?

Cardinal Canizares: Ask them, I am not in their thoughts or in the consciences.

Q: Is it something to do with our history?

Cardinal Canizares: Our history is a very rich history. I have said it many times and repeated it ad nauseam: Spain can stop being Christian, but it would stop being Spain.

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