Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Young people: go to confession often so that you shall renew your capacity to love! It will help you change the world and bring to it a civilisation of love. Benedict XVI said this in a message he delivered to several thousands of young people who filled St Peter’s Square, so many in fact that some had to stand outside its perimeter. And yet the Pope was able to greet them all.
For the first time since he became pope, Benedict XVI also heard confession, from young people, and hence renewed with a tradition that began under John Paul II. Unlike his predecessor who went down into St Peter’s Basilica on Good Friday to administer the sacrament like any other confessor, Benedict XVI performed it today as part of a penitential celebration leading up to Youth Day. In doing so the Pope underscored the right way to celebrate the ritual, communal part and individuals confessions included.
It was a long liturgy devoted to “experimenting in the mercy of God,” according to Benedict XVI’s own definition, one that saw young Catholics from Erbil, Iraq, joined in prayer.
In speaking to the young people the Pope proposed they reflect upon the Youth Day theme, namely “Love one another as I love you.”
“Today’s meeting has a high and profound meaning,” he said. “It is in fact a meeting about the Cross, a celebration of God’s mercy which each one of you can personally experience in the sacrament of the confession.”
Benedict XVI also said that in the heart of each man, “beggar for love, there is a thirst for love.” Indeed, “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it,” he said quoting John Paul II from his first encyclical Redemptor Hominis. “This is even truer for Christians, who, if they do not encounter true love, cannot call themselves Christian.”
In the beginning Christianity was “the meeting with a person who gives life,” Benedict XVI noted in Deus Caritas Est. Subsequently, it was the meeting with God’s love for us, “which began at creation, then became visible in the mystery of the Cross” which “revealed the fullness of God’s love for us.”
But faced with the ablative love of God, “who awaits for His creatures’ ‘I do’ the way a young groom waits for his bride’s,” humanity, ever since its origins seduced by the evil one, has shut itself off from God’s love under the illusion of its own self-sufficiency.
“But tonight as you approach the sacrament of the confession,” the Pope told the young crowd, “you will be able to experience the free gift God makes of His life,” so that “we can become new beings.” After that, “be prepared to use love with you families, friends, and even those who have given you offence;” “be prepared to bear witness of the true Christian love wherever you study and work, in parish communities, groups, movements, associations, in every realm of society.”
Addressing young couples, the Pope said that they should live their engagement “in the true love that comes with respect for one another, chaste and responsible.” If “any of you should feel called to a special consecration, be ready to respond with a generous Yes and no compromises.”
“The world,” he concluded, “is waiting for you to contribute to the building of a civilisation of love [. . .] one where the whole world is the horizon. With God’s grace you shall be equal to the arduous task. Do not lose confidence; the Lord is by your side.”
The rite included a liturgy of the Word and a collective request for forgiveness, symbolised by seven young people asking for forgiveness, each one representing each mortal sin. Then, as a sign of the call for mercy, another seven lighted a lamp near the Cross, in this particular case the Crucifix of the Visitine Chapel, which was brought for the occasion. Individual confessions followed, performed in addition to the Pope by 200 priests from the Pontifical basilicas and the diocese.
The ceremony was also a stage before the upcoming Youth Day, symbolised by the final song “Jesus Christ you are my life”, the event’s “hymn”.
Photo Credit: CPP