Dearest young people,
You are the youth of Genoa! I embrace you with the heart of Christ.
I thank the two representatives who acted as your 'spokesmen'. And I thank all of you for your warm presence in such numbers, rich with the enthusiasm that should always characterize your spirit, not only in the years of youth, full of expectations and dreams, but always - even when youth will have passed and you are called on to live other seasons of life.
But yes, I also ask you, always be young! But let me remind you that youth - true youth - is not a question of years, of physical vigor, of brilliant form, of efficiency. In fact, it seems that youth should be synonymous to joy, but it is not always so.
There are, unfortunately, those who are young in age but are old within - who lag behind, even if they may not lack for earthly goods - they lack culture, satisfactory work, relationships and possibilities.
The Gospel tells us of that rich young man who met Christ, who lacked nothing - neither health nor possessions nor possibilities. Nevertheless, the young man felt that he was missing something - he had the intuition that he did not have the most important thing, that 'something' which could truly fill the soul. His was a religious question, born in the depths of his heart, speaking from the depths of his heart.
To be young means to have discovered the things that do not pass away with the passing of the years. If a young person discovers the great and true values, then he will never grow old, even if the body follows its own laws.
Stay young in your heart and you will radiate youth, which is to say, goodness. Yes, because goodness escapes the grip of time. That is why we can say that only he who is good and generous is truly young.
I wish you all to remain young, but not as fashion goes. Fashions fizzle out in a heartbeat, they burn out in frenetic pointless succession. But youth - the youth born of goodness - will remain. Indeed, it will be perfect and resplendent in Heaven, with God.
It is beautiful to be young. Today, everyone wants to be young, to remain young, and many masquerade as young people, even if their youth has gone - visibly gone. But why is it beautiful to be young? Why this dream of perennial youth?
I think there are two decisive elements. One is that youth still has all of the future ahead. Everything is the future - the time of hope. And the future is full of promise, although today, it is also full of threats, especially the threat of great emptiness.
That is why many want to stop time, out of fear for a future of emptiness. They would want to consume all at once everything that is 'beautiful' in life - and so they burn out the candle at both ends even if their life has just begun.
It is important to choose the true promises, those that will open up the future, even if it means renouncing certain things. Whoever chooses God will have, even in old age, a future without an end, and will fear no threats ahead.
So choose well - do not destroy your future. And the first choice should be God, who revealed himself in Jesus Christ. In the light of this choice which offers us a reliable companion on our journey, one can find the criteria for the other choices that one must make.
To be young, as I said, means being good and generous. But once again: the true goodness is Jesus, the Jesus you know or that your heart is searching for. He alone is the friend who will never betray. He was faithful up to giving his life on the Cross. Surrender to his love!
As it says on the T-shirts you prepared for this meeting, 'Loosen up" before Christ. Only he can resolve your anxieties and fears, only he can fulfill your expectations. He has given his life for you. Would he ever betray your trust? Could he ever lead you into wrong paths?
His ways are the ways of life, those that lead to pastures for the soul, even if they lead uphill and may be arduous. And it is the life of the spirit that I invite you to cultivate, dear friends.
Jesus has said: "I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing" (John 15,5). Jesus does not speak in circles; he is always clear and direct. Everyone can understand him and take a position.
The life of the spirit is an encounter with him, the concrete face of God. It is silent persevering prayer, it is sacramental life, it is the Gospel meditated, it is spiritual company, it is heartfelt belonging to the Church, to your ecclesial community.
How can one love what one does not know? Knowing impels love, and love stimulates knowing. It is that way, too, with Christ. That is why it is necessary to look deeply into the mystery of Jesus, the truth of his thinking which echoes in the Gospel and in the Magisterium of the Church.
Without substantial formation, how will it be possible for you yo give a reason for your faith to your contemporaries who are themselves often full of questions about life, about themselves, about the Christian faith, about the Church?
How will it be possible to answer questions, there where there seems to be only aridity and desert, addiction to pretentious myths, widespread lies, and cliches of thought?
How can one enter into the heart of decisive questions, today debated without reasoned faith nor reason that has been trained to grasp the truth in values, in order to present them with calm rigor to those who do not have the light of faith?
How to be courageous and joyous missionaries who are also culturally equipped to announce to all that Jesus is the supreme reason of your life, and your youth?
At the end of our encounter, I will have the joy of presenting the Gospel to some of you as a sign of this missionary mandate. Go forth, dearest young people, into the circles of life, in your parishes, in the most difficult neighborhoods, on the streets!
Proclaim Christ the Lord, hope of the world. The more man distances himself from God, his source, the more he will lose himself, human coexistence becomes more difficult, and society falls apart.
Be united among yourselves, help each other to live and grow in the faith and in Christian living, in order to be ardent witnesses for the Lord.
Be united but not closed off. Be humble, but not fearful. Be simple, but not naive. Be thoughtful, but not complicated. Enter into dialog with everyone, but remain yourselves.
Be in communion with your pastors: they are ministers of the Gospel, of the Divine Eucharist, of God's forgiveness. They are, for you, parents and friends, companions along the way. You need them and they - all of us - need you.
Each of you, dear young people, if you remain united with Christ and the Church, can achieve great things. That is the wish that I leave with you today.
To those of you who registered to participate in the World Youth Day in Sydney, I say 'Arrivederci' in Sydney, and I extend this to all, because anyone can follow the event, even from here.
I know that in those days, the dioceses in Italy will be organizing community gatherings for that purpose, so that there may truly be a new Pentecost among the young people of the whole world.
I entrust you to the Virgin Mary, model of willingness and humble courage in welcoming the mission of the Lord. Learn from her to make your life a Yes to God! This way, Jesus will come to dwell in you, and you will bring him with joy to everyone.
With my blessing ...
Hat-tip: Charlotte was Both here and here. The Reuters photo above (taken at the youth gathering) is via Whispers.