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Young people, children are God's blessing and they help couples to overcome all selfishness

June 20,1992

On Saturday evening, 20 June, near the shrine of Our Lady of the Fountain in Caravaggio, the Pope met the young people of the three Dioceses and spoke to them about some topics they had proposed. During his address the Holy Father made frequent reference to the three symbols the youth had chosen for their prayer vigil, namely, water, the cross and fire. This is a translation of the Pope's talk, which he gave in Italian.

Dear Young People,

1. It is truly a gift from God to be able to meet you this evening in the shadow of the beautiful shrine of Caravaggio, a place of prayer and meditation, a temple of living faith and Marian devotion. Other significant meetings I have had with your peers in Italy and in other countries of the world come to my mind. Most of all, I often recall the unforgettable Marian vigil at Jasna Góra on 14 August last, on the occasion of the sixth World Youth Day. I was able to pause near the tender image of the Black Madonna, listening to the Holy Spirit, together with the young men and women coming from every continent, but especially from Eastern and Western Europe.

We prayed and kept watch together; together, and with courage, we paused to reflect on the many challenges facing the Church and humanity in this age of enormous, rapid social change.

Today's meeting can be seen as another one of these youth rallies, and is meant to be another important step towards a deepened understanding of the meaning and sense of being young today, at the dawn of the year 2000.

In this atmosphere of joy and prayer I am pleased to turn my thoughts first of all to Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Archbishop of Milan, whom I heartily thank for the words of homage he expressed in the name of all present. I also greet Bishop Assi of Cremona and the Prelates from the other Lombard Dioceses present here.

I affectionately greet each of you present here, dear boys and girls, and through you, I would like to embrace every young person in your region.

Christ responds to whoever calls upon him

2. In your name some of your friends - an engaged couple from Cremona, a young man from Crema and a young lady from Lodi asked me several questions that touch closely upon the problems of today's young people.

I am grateful for their frankness and the confidence they have placed in me. I would like to add that these meetings with young people always bring up some questions, but they provide even more answers. It is good that these questions come from the answers, but it is also necessary that the answers come from the questions. This is the logic behind our meetings. I will simply try to answer their questions, although I realize that I cannot be exhaustive. I would like to meditate together with you on the important topics that have been proposed, in an atmosphere of listening and meditation, so that Christ can speak to each person in the depths of his or her heart. He knows our secrets; he is ready to respond to whoever calls upon him and he even foresees our deepest needs.

Open your hearts to Christ, dear young people. Through his resurrection he proved that life is stronger than death.

Illuminated by this certitude, our existence becomes an extraordinary adventure which is worth facing with enthusiasm, without, however, forgetting to pay attention to God's plan and his message of salvation. "If you live according to my teaching", Jesus says, "you are truly my disciples; then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (Jn 8:31-32).

Remain in Christ: this is what is essential for each of you. Remain in Christ, listening to his voice and following his precepts. Thus you will know the truth which will set you free; you will encounter the Love which transforms and makes holy.

Everything, in fact, has new meaning and value when considered in the light of the Redeemer's person and teaching.

3. Now let us turn to your questions and begin with that of the young fiancés from Cremona who ask how to deepen the authentic reasons and demands of love which is open to life without becoming conditioned by the dominant culture of consumerism.

Dear friends, love is not merely something spontaneous or instinctive; it is a choice which needs constant confirmation. When a man and woman are united in true love, each assumes the other's destiny - his future - as his own, though it involves hard work and suffering, so that the other "may have life and have it to the full" (Jn 10:10). These words of Jesus refer to all true love.

In this way alone does one love "seriously", and not just lightly, nor only for a time. When the other hears you say: "I love you", he or she understands that these words are true and he too will take the experience of love "seriously".

It is necessary to love like Jesus. The most profound reason for Christian love is found in the words and example of Christ: "Love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 15:12). This is true for every type of human love; it holds true for the love between two engaged persons, the love in preparation for marriage and a family.

Love, then, which is preparing for marriage, is also preparing to generate new life. This task should be considered as a gift from God and a great act of trust on the human being's part.

In such a view children are not something to be feared; they do not "rob" you of freedom; they are not an intrusion which deprives you of time, energy and money. Children are not unwelcome guests, but God's blessing which overcomes all selfishness in the couple and helps them to experience reality with gratitude and liberating love.


We die each day in order to rise

4. We could develop this topic and add many other considerations, but you can do that by yourselves, helped by your teachers. Let us now go on to the question of the young man from Crema who has brought up the topic of death.

Today there are many ways to die: old age; illness; cancer, the dread of so many people; drugs; AIDS. People die forgotten by this society of efficiency; they die unexpectedly in traffic accidents or at work. There are even those who die before birth because someone has claimed the right of deciding about human life, which is sacred.

Death is appalling, especially when it strikes a young person. Death, however, can be an experience of extraordinary solidarity. Death makes us brothers and sisters: St Francis called death his "sister". In a world which casts death aside and does everything to hide it, it is not futile, but rather urgently necessary to recall the inevitability of an event which is part of the "history" of man, of every man.

There is also, however, the solidarity of those who "are at the side of" a "dying person" since death has its most tragic aspect in "being alone"; that solitude which became Jesus' cry: "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" (Mk 15:34).

How many persons doing various types of volunteer work show their solidarity with the person being touched by the experience of death! Thank you, all you "good Samaritans".

You must be reconciled to death. No matter how long life may be, death is inevitable: not as an end, but as the supreme, decisive act of the human being in regard to his or her own future. Every season of life thus becomes a simultaneous experience of life and death.

For us believers, however, we die each day in order to rise. This is another dimension, a totally Christian one. At the centre of the Christian experience, in fact, is the crucifix: the one who passed through the mystery of death, opening up a shining way of resurrection. We die to rise again.

For each of us the great adventure of life as a process of gradual transformation into the crucified and risen Christ began on the day of our baptism. Being reconciled to death means thoroughly accepting life; it also means sharing the bitter cup of solitude and suffering which so many of our brothers and sisters are drinking. Such solidarity makes death more human and life more authentic.

5. Dear young people, do not be upset by the thought of death; it should rather help you appreciate youth as a time of grace and mission. It should help you assume with Christ the task of loving and evangelizing life. Here we have the other theme of our reflection. There are three conditions that help you to fulfill your demanding mission; they are represented by the three symbols of this evening's vigil: water, the cross, fire.

Young people of Lombardy, be as lively as a fountain of water; cultivate a deep spiritual life. Like Christ, a fountain which springs up to eternal life, your heart will thus be united with Jesus, it will become a fountain which quenches all those who draw near to you and meet you.

Any young person who wants to love life cannot neglect a time of prayer, silence, meditation and contemplation. He or she cannot fail to nourish a strong and tender devotion to Mary, who here in Caravaggio is venerated as Our Lady of the Fountain. This was expressed here last evening in a different way. He cannot neglect the time to share his own faith experience with his brothers and sisters: in the ecclesial community, the youth club (that sound, God-given institution in this Lombard region), associations or movements. A profound spiritual life is an indispensable requisite for a love called to the fullness of the experience of marriage; it is the prelude to a generous, responsible gift of self to God and neighbour; it is a preparation for a positive, decisive response to charity in the consecrated life. All true love matures in prayer. We must drink from these fountains, and the fountains can be reached through prayer. Ultimately, Love is God. God is Love. This Love manifested itself, revealed itself, became man in Christ Jesus. It is always at work through his Spirit, this Spirit which has been poured out into our hearts. He is the mystery of our hearts. The Holy Spirit has been poured out, but in order truly to be poured out, in order to transform our "self", our hearts, through this gratuitous outpouring, he must encounter us. How can this happen in the absence of prayer? So, all true love matures in prayer, becomes deeper, more serious, more complete.

Deepen your knowledge of the Church's teaching

6. The second condition is to learn what, according to St Paul, is called the wisdom of the cross: the other symbol you have proposed.

It is not a question simply of intellectual learning, but of a knowledge nourished by personal contact and dialogue with God: he is Life to meet and experience; Truth to follow; a Way to be embraced without hesitation.

The Holy Spirit helps the baptized be conformed to Christ and ready to defend and spread the Gospel. Remember it well: the Gospel is proclaimed with your whole life. The Gospel is the proclamation of Christ "crucified and risen". Thus, in daily contact with Jesus, you can learn the wisdom of the cross, "a stumbling- block to Jews and an absurdity to Gentiles" (1 Cor 1:23).

Wanting to serve and evangelize life, therefore, means the constant, generous effort to become familiar with the Gospel, to deepen your knowledge of the Church's teaching, to know contemporary culture, vigorously exposing every temptation to undervalue human dignity, subjecting it to fancy, instinct or the abuse of one person by another.

7. Dear young people, do not be afraid to defend life and all of life. Life in its germinal stage, as well as at its passing; the life of those forced to the fringes, as well as of those who marginalize themselves, of those who squander their own wealth on the road that leads to self-destruction, as well as of those who waste it in banal ways and escapism.

Like the apostles, like the saints of this region of yours, and they are many, like all those who have allowed the Lord Jesus to choose them, "nor should you (young people) be silent" (Message for 1992 World Youth Day). You must say and cry out that life is a wonderful gift from God, and no one is its master; that abortion and euthanasia are horrible crimes against human dignity; that drug addiction is an irresponsible rejection of the beauty of life; that pornography impoverishes and dries up the heart. You must also remember that sickness and suffering are not a punishment or condemnation, but rather an opportunity to let the mystery of man enter your heart; that in the sick person, the disabled person, the child, the old person, the adolescent, the young person, the adult and in every person the image of God shines forth.

More especially, however, you must cry out to the world that life is a fragile gift that is worthy of absolute respect; that God does not look at appearances, but at the heart; that the life marked by the cross and suffering deserves even more attention, care and tenderness.

Here is true youth: it is fire, your other symbol, which separates the dross of evil from the beauty and dignity of things and persons; it is fire which warms the coldness of the world with enthusiasm; it is the fire of love which instills confidence and leads to joy. In order to be so, however, your youth must be enriched by faithfulness and sacrifice, letting yourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit who leads the Church towards a renewed Pentecost of hope and charity. He is the fire, the fire of the Holy Spirit.

8. Dear boys and girls, be missionaries of life; follow Christ and consecrate yourselves to his service wherever he calls you, and in whatever condition he has put you. The family, the youth club, work, leisure, the groups and associations to which you belong, are the places for your mission in the broad context of the new evangelization.

Do not be afraid to be faithful to Christ

With your speech and your life proclaim what you "have heard" and learned from the Lord. It is not always easy; at times it takes a great deal of courage to be consistent with your faith and honestly to take up the truth of the Gospel. Sometimes the price is even marginalization, but do not be afraid to keep your fidelity to Christ intact. You can be sure that he will never abandon you.

Dearly beloved, Christ is the surest of friends. He is a friend who does not abandon, who never disappoints. His words in the Gospel are demanding, they are difficult, but they are words that are full of Truth. This Truth makes us free; this Truth is the true basis of friendship: "You are my friends. I no longer call you servants. I have called you friends". He called us his friends because he confided to us the whole mystery of his Father, the unfathomable mystery, the divine mystery. He made us enter into this mystery, has shared it with us, sealing it with his cross and resurrection. Crucified and risen. Friend. Just as he is here before us this evening, his image must go with you always. Crucified and risen, he must always go with you, repeating in every situation, at every moment, in every trial: "I have called you my friend".

May the Virgin Mother of God, the Star of the new evangelization, help you and sustain you in this often tiring, but always exhilarating task. May she always help and sustain you and always be as she is here, at the foot of the cross, to tell us: "Behold your son, your daughter". Behold, your son, your daughter, all of us, pressed to this motherly heart of the Blessed Virgin.

Teachings of the Magisterium on Abortion

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