File photo of Pope Francis among young people before the pandemic File photo of Pope Francis among young people before the pandemic 

Pope to young people: 'Offer the world a new face for Europe'

Pope Francis encourages young people gathered this week at the European Union Youth Conference in Prague to present to the world "a new face of Europe," one that is inclusive, educated, and not afraid to reject violence as "senseless" wars are fought around them.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Pope Francis has urged young people to present to the world a new face of Europe.

The Pope's words came in his message sent to the European Union Youth Conference, taking place 11-13 July in the Czech Republic's capital of Prague, in which he spoke about educating young people to create a better world.

New face of Europe

In particular, the Holy Father recalled the Global Compact on Education, launched in September 2019, and how the initiative promotes an alliance between educators around the world to educate the younger generations in fraternity, as a way to work toward a better continent.

"As young Europeans," he stressed, "you have an important mission. If in the past your ancestors went to other continents, not always for noble interests, it is now up to you to present the world with a new face of Europe."

In the message published on Monday, the Holy Father told young people to work toward excellence, but in a way that always considers helping and welcoming others and protecting the environment.

The Holy Father urged them to protect the environment, and encouraged them to read his 2015 encyclical Laudato sì.

He warned against institutions that keep the status quo, but may not work toward a true betterment of the world.

“Don’t let yourselves be seduced by the sirens that propose a life of luxury reserved for a small slice of the world. Instead, have that “broad outlook” that can take in all the rest of humanity, which is much bigger than our little continent. May you aspire to a life of dignity and sobriety, without luxury and waste, so that everyone in our world can enjoy a dignified existence.”

Conscientious objection' to 'senseless' war

Pope Francis also lamented the ongoing "senseless war" in Ukraine, following numerous wars fought on the continent. He recalled that the desire for a united Europe in the past led to a period of peace spanning some seven decades.

“Now we must all commit ourselves to putting an end to this dreadful war, where, as usual, a few powerful people decide and send thousands of young people to fight and die. In cases like this, it is legitimate to rebel!”

"Someone has said that, if the world were ruled by women, there would not be so many wars, because those who have the mission of giving life cannot make death choices," the Pope said.

In a similar vein, he added, "I like to think that if the world were ruled by young people, there would not be so many wars." Those who have their whole life ahead of them, the Pope suggested, do not want to ruin it and throw it away, but to live it to the full.

Blessed Franz Jägerstätter

"I would like to invite you to get to know the extraordinary figure of a young objector, a young European with “a broad outlook”, who fought against Nazism during the Second World War," the Pope said, noting, "His name was Franz Jägerstätter, and he was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI."

"Franz was a young Austrian who, because of his Catholic faith, made a conscientious objection to the injunction to swear allegiance to Hitler and go to war. As a boy, he was cheerful, likeable and carefree, but as he matured, thanks also to his wife, Franziska, with whom he had three children, he changed his life and developed profound convictions. When called to arms, he refused, because he felt it was unjust to kill innocent lives."

Blessed Franz's decision, the Pope acknowledged, "triggered harsh reactions" towards him from his community, the mayor, and even members of his family.

"A priest tried to dissuade him for the sake of his family.  Everyone was against him, except his wife Franziska, who, despite knowing the price to be paid, always stood by her husband and supported him to the end. Despite cajoling and torture, Franz preferred to be killed than to kill," the Pope said.  

"He considered the war totally unjustified. If all the young men called to arms had done as he did, Hitler would not have been able to carry out his diabolical plans," the Pope said. 

"To triumph," he added, "evil needs accomplices."

Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, the Pope told the young people, was executed in the same prison where his contemporary, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young German Lutheran theologian and anti-Nazi, was also imprisoned and met the same tragic end.

The Pope noted that these two young men with a “broad outlook” were killed "because they remained faithful to the ideals of their faith to the end."  

Meaning of life comes from seeking the Truth

In his message, the Pope focused on different dimensions of education, including knowledge of oneself, of others and of creation, and lastly, of the beginning and end of all things.  

"Dear young Europeans," he said, "I invite you to look upwards and beyond, to keep seeking the real meaning of your life, where you come from and where you are going, and the Truth, because we cannot live authentically if we do not seek the Truth. Walk with your feet firmly planted on the earth, but with a broad gaze, open to the horizon, open to the sky." 

The Holy Father encouraged them to read his post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christus vivit, addressed especially to young people, to help them in their endeavours.

Pope Francis concluded by calling on the young people to work toward a better society and world.

“May you be generative! Young people capable of generating new ideas, new visions of the world, of the economy, of politics, of social coexistence, but above of new paths to be travelled together. And may you also be generous in generating new lives, always and only as the fruit of love! The love of husband and wife, the love of family and children, but also love of Europe, so that it can be for everyone a land of peace, freedom and dignity.”

11 July 2022, 12:01