15-September-2008 -- ZENIT.org News Agency
PARIS, SEPT. 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI participated in a type of mini-World Youth Day in Paris, addressing some 270,000 young people gathered near Notre Dame Cathedral, and entrusting them with two "treasures."
The Pope met Friday evening with youth of France, on the first day of his four-day trip marking the 150th anniversary of the Virgin's apparitions at Lourdes.
After having celebrated vespers in the cathedral, the Holy Father met the youth, gathered in the plaza and along the banks of the Seine, who watched the Pope on video screens.
Seeing the river of youth, the Pontiff said the encounter reminded him of World Youth Day in Sydney last July. Referring to the theme in Australia, he spoke to them of how the event helped many youth to rediscover the importance of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
"The Spirit, who is Love, can open your hearts to accept the gift of genuine love," the Bishop of Rome said. "All of you are seeking the truth; and all of you want to live in truth, to truly live in it! This truth is Christ. He is the only Way, the one Truth and the true Life. [...]
"Surrender yourselves to the Holy Spirit in order to find Christ. The Spirit is our indispensable guide in prayer, he animates our hope and he is the source of true joy."
Benedict XVI encouraged the young people to have an apostolic spirit.
"Bring the Good News to the young people of your age, and to others as well," he said. "They know what it means to experience difficulty in relationships, worry and uncertainty in the face of work and study. They have experienced suffering, but they have also known unique moments of joy. Be witnesses of God, for, as young people, you are fully a part of the Catholic community through your baptism and our common profession of faith. The Church has confidence in you, and I want to tell you so."
He then "entrusted" the youth with a second "treasure": the mystery of the cross.
"For Christians, the cross signifies God's wisdom and his infinite love revealed in the saving gift of Christ, crucified and risen for the life of the world, and in particular for the life of each and every one of you," he said. "May this amazing realization that God was made man for love lead you to respect and venerate the cross. [...]
"I know that venerating the cross can sometimes bring mockery and even persecution. The cross in some way seems to threaten our human security, yet above all else, it also proclaims God's grace and confirms our salvation. This evening, I entrust you with the cross of Christ. The Holy Spirit will enable you to understand its mysteries of love."
The youth had arrived several hours early in hopes of securing the best seats. During the wait, they watched projected images of the Pope's live discourse at the College of the Bernardines and the vespers service.
A group of 20 students from the Joan of Arc school in Bretigny talked to ZENIT about their excitement. Fourteen-year-old Loic said he discovered in the words of the Pope that "God has not completed creation," while his classmate Remy confessed that he was impressed by what the Holy Father said about the word of God and the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. He said he realized that everything is "united" -- man and the Church, people and nature.
Meanwhile, 20-year-old Benoît, a seminarian from the Diocese of Pontoise, said he was excited by the two "treasures" Benedict XVI entrusted especially to the youth: the Holy Spirit and the Cross. Aude, standing beside his friend, agreed: "Yes, [the invitation] to carry the cross."
Father Jérôme Bascoul, from one of the parishes of Paris, said he was struck by the "Holy Father's radiant face when he spoke to the youth in the midst of this marvelous light" of the setting sun.
Father Denis Dupont-Fauville shared his reflection on the "extraordinary" discourse the Pontiff gave to the world of culture just hours before his meeting with the young people.
"He has faced the heart of that we want to do," Father Dupont-Fauville said. "It seemed that he presented us with a program: 'ora et labora' -- prayer and work, according to the Rule of St. Benedict."
Sister Stella, an Italian religious from the Order of the Assumption, affirmed: "[The Pope] is a man completely given to God and to his people, the Church. [...] He is someone capable of adapting himself to any age group, who knows to whom he is speaking. ... I love him very much."
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