As always Pope Benedict went straight to the heart of the matter, preserving with firm and gentle clarity his vision of realistic confidence. Indeed, this is the general tone of the Message for the World Day of Peace, published a few hours after the celebration of Vespers with the university students of Rome and, with the same trusting realism, the Pope spoke to them of waiting for God.
Benedict XVI could not neglect the global crisis that is weighing on many societies that he described with singularly effective words: “It seems as if a shadow has fallen over our time”, one reads at the beginning of the Message, “preventing us from clearly seeing the light of day”. This causes distress, especially to the young. Moreover one does not need a much analysis to notice this disturbing situation, which emerged in the year that is ending with demonstrations and visible symptoms in many countries.
Because of this and because of our responsibility for the younger generations — frightened and bewildered, as they face a future that appears uncertain and completely lacking in prospects from every point of view — the Pope looks to the need for education, which he describes as: “the most interesting and difficult adventure in life”. Because of his long personal experience as a teacher and pastor who has always been in touch with young people, Benedict XVI knows well that it is not enough to be teachers but that it is necessary above all to be witnesses, as Paul VI used to say, and it is for this reason that the Pope addresses both educators and parents.
In the papal text the appeal to civil leaders is particularly striking: that they question themselves on the decisions to be taken in this time of crisis of course, but, especially, that they offer youth “a transparent image of politics”. And there is also an implicit exhortation to a new commitment in a sphere — like that of politics — which in many countries seems ever more remote from the real concerns of citizens and fails to attract, or rejects, the younger generations.
Equally forceful is the Pope’s appeal to the world of the media which all too often forgets that their role is not solely informative. The Pope knows well — and says so once again — that education in justice and peace passes through education in truth and freedom. This is why in his Message he returns with insistence to the question of God, with a criticism of contemporary relativism that recognizes nothing as definitive and with the keypoint of natural moral law, the basis of every form of just and peaceful coexistence. Indeed it is “not ideologies that will save the world, but only a return to the living God”, Benedict XVI repeated. And returning means and demands the free commitment of the human being to seek, not any kind of god — idols have certainly not disappeared from today’s society — but God the Creator, who spoke to Moses and revealed his Face in Jesus. No, it is not anachronistic to meditate on the words of the Apostle James who exhorts us to wait for the Coming of Christ with the patience of a farmer, as the Pope said to the university students, with a perseverance that corresponds with the patience of God himself, who is faithful in waiting for the free response of men and women. God is close to us and is above all a friend of the human person, of every human being.
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 29, 2020
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