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