By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — When adults have so much difficulty bringing young people to faith, it probably is a sign that God is calling youths to evangelize their peers, Pope Benedict XVI said in his message for World Youth Day 2008.
The struggle adults have in making the faith convincing “could be a sign with which the Spirit is urging you young people to take this task upon yourselves,” the pope wrote in his message, released in English July 24.
Pope Benedict also said he hoped a huge crowd of young people would join him in Sydney, Australia, for the July 15-20 international gathering, which will include a renewal of the promises made at baptism and confirmation.
“Together we shall invoke the Holy Spirit, confidently asking God for the gift of a new Pentecost for the church and for humanity in the third millennium,” the pope said.
The theme of World Youth Day 2008 is: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses.”
The Holy Spirit is the spirit of love, the source of Christians’ strength and the power that helps them be coherent and attractive witnesses of Christ, the pope said.
Pope Benedict said he knows many young people have worries and questions about their lives and their futures. They are concerned about their place in a world marked by “so many grave injustices and so much suffering” and about how they can make a difference when there is so much selfishness and violence around them, he added.
Young Christians, he said, ask themselves how they can bring into the world the fruits of the Holy Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
“Once again I repeat that only Christ can fulfill the most intimate aspirations that are in the heart of each person,” the pope said. “Only Christ can humanize humanity and lead it to its divinization.”
Pope Benedict told young people he knows some people suspect Christians of intolerance when they try to share the good news of Christ with those who do not believe, but sharing the Gospel is not the same as trying to impose a faith on others.
The world needs young people who have allowed the love of Christ into their lives and are ready to respond to God’s call to share that love with others, he said.
The pope asked the young people to commit their lives to sharing “the truth of Christ, to respond with love to hatred and disregard for life; to proclaim the hope of the risen Christ in every corner of the earth.”
The pope urged youths to be holy and to be missionaries, since holiness cannot be separated from mission.
Pope Benedict told the young people that the most carefully planned and efficiently executed programs will not bring people to Christ; a missionary outreach requires prayer, active participation in a Christian community and personally sharing God’s love with others.
“For the mission to be effective, communities must be united, that is, they must be of one heart and soul, and they must be ready to witness to the love and joy that the Holy Spirit instills in the hearts of the faithful,” he said.
In the final year of preparation for World Youth Day 2008, Pope Benedict asked young people to learn about the Holy Spirit and to trust that God has sent the Spirit into their hearts to fill them with love, joy and strength.