On Sunday afternoon, 21 August , during his Pastoral Visit to Cologne,
Germany, for the 20th World Youth Day, the Holy Father addressed about 80
German Bishops at the Archdiocesan Seminary. The following is a
translation of the Pope's Address to the Prelates, given in German.
First of all, I would like to express my great happiness at once again
having the opportunity to see one another and be together after beautiful
and likewise demanding days, and therefore, of having the joy of meeting.
Although I am in fact only a former member of the German Bishops'
Conference, I still feel bound to you all in a fraternal union that cannot
I would like next to thank Cardinal Lehmann for his cordial words and
emphasize them in the spirit of what I too said today at the end of this
Eucharistic celebration: that is, I want to express once again the great
"thank you" that we all have in our hearts.
We all know that the immense work of preparation, the great things
achieved, do not suffice to make all this possible. We know, consequently,
that it must necessarily be a gift. Since no one can simply create the
enthusiasm of the young, no one can create to last for days this union in
faith and in the joy of faith.
Everything, moreover, even the weather, has truly been a gift for which
w thank the Lord. We also interpret it as duty to do our part to ensure
that this enthusiasm continues and develops into strength for the life of
the Church in our Country.
I would like once again to thank Cardinal Meisner and his collaborators
for all their preparatory work. I also want to thank Cardinal Lehmann, his
collaborators and all of you, for all the Dioceses have cooperated in the
organization of this event. The whole of German has offered hospitality to
the guests and has set out with Our Lady and the Cross; it has thus been
able to receive this gift.
I am deeply grateful for this statue that still needs a little time, so
to speak to acquire its definitive form. Yet I find it very beautiful that
St Boniface will also be in my house and will thus visibly express to me
too what he held particularly dear: the union between the Church in
Germany and in Rome. Jut as he led the Church in Germany to unity with the
Successor of Peter, he is a so guiding me to lasting fraternal communion
with the Bishops of Germany with the Church in Germany.
The Holy Father John Paul II, the brilliant founder of the World Youth
Days — an insight that I consider an inspiration — has shown that both
parties give and receive. Not only have we done our part in the best
possible way, but the young people, with their questions, their hope,
their joy in faith, the: enthusiasm in renewing the Church have given
something to us.
and let us hope that it will endure, that is,
that the young people with their questions, faith and joy in faith will
continue to challenge us to get the better of our faint-heartedness and
weariness and urge us, in turn, with the experience of the faith
that is given to us, with the experience of pastoral ministry, with the
grace of the Sacrament in which we find ourselves, to point out the way to
them, so that their enthusiasm may be properly directed. Just as a spring
must be channeled so that its waters may be useful, this ever new
enthusiasm must likewise be, as it were, molded into its ecclesial form.
Here in Germany we are accustomed primarily, and I as a Professor in
particular, to see especially the problems. However, I believe we should
admit that all this has been possible because in Germany, despite all the
Church's problems, despite all possible questionable things, a living
Church truly exists.
She is a Church with many positive aspects in which so many people are
ready to work hard for their own faith and to use their free time, even
giving money and some of their possessions simply to contribute to her
with their own lives. It seems to me that this has become newly visible to
How many people in Germany, in spite of all the difficulties we
complain about, are still believers today, constitute a living Church and
hence, make it possible for an event like World Youth Day to have its own
context, its own humus, in which to grow and take shape!
I believe we must remember the many priests, Religious and lay people
who, faithful to their service, work in difficult pastoral conditions. And
there is no need for me to emphasize the generosity of German Catholics,
truly well known throughout the world; it is not only a material
generosity, since there are many German Fidei donum priests.
I see it during the Ad limina visits: German priests are
working, even in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and regions beyond
the wildest imagination, scattering the seed of the Word, identifying with
people. Thus, they imbue this threatened world, invaded by so many
negative things from the West, with the great power of faith and with it,
all that is positive in what we are given.
Misereor, Adveniat, Missio, Renovabis as well as the diocesan and
parish branches of Caritas do an enormous amount of work. Then the
educational work of Catholic schools and other Catholic institutions and
organizations for youth is equally vast. In saying this, I do not intend
to be exhaustive about everything positive there is to say, but merely to
mention it to you so that these aspects are not forgotten and will always
inspire courage and joy.
Besides the positive aspects that I believe are important not to forget
and for which it is always necessary to be grateful, we also have to admit
that on the face of the universal Church and also on that of the Church in
Germany there are unfortunately also wrinkles and shadows that obscure her
splendor. We should lovingly keep these before us too, at this moment of
festivity and thanksgiving.
We know that secularism and de-Christianization are gaining ground,
that relativism is growing and that the influence of Catholic ethics and
morals is in constant decline. Many people abandon the Church or, if they
stay, accept only a part of Catholic teaching, picking and choosing
between only certain aspects of Christianity.
The religious situation in the East continues to be worrying. Here, as
we know, the majority of the population is not baptized, has no contact
with the Church and has often not even heard of either Christ or the
Church. We should recognize these realities as challenges.
A 'mission land'
Dear Brothers, as you yourselves said in your Pastoral Letter of 21
September 2004, on the occasion of the Jubilee of St Boniface: "We have
become a mission land". This is true for large parts of Germany.
I therefore believe that throughout Europe, and likewise in France,
Spain and elsewhere, we should give serious thought as to how to achieve a
true evangelization in this day and age, not only a new evangelization,
but often a true and proper first evangelization.
People do not know God, they do not know Christ. There is a new form of
paganism and it is not enough for us to strive to preserve the existing
flock, although this is very important: we must ask the important
question: what really is life?
I believe we must all try together to find new ways of bringing the
Gospel to the contemporary world, of proclaiming Christ anew and of
implanting the faith.
This scene, that the World Youth Day is unfolding before us and that I
have described with only a few brief comments, invites us to turn our gaze
to the future. For the Church and especially for us Pastors, for parents
and for educators, young people constitute a living appeal to faith.
I would like to say once again that in my opinion Pope John Paul II was
tremendously inspired in choosing for this World Youth Day the motto:
"We have come to worship him" (Mt 2:2). We are often so oppressed,
understandably oppressed, by the immense social needs of the world and by
all the organizational and structural problems that exist that we set
aside worship as something for later. Fr Delp once said that nothing is
more important than worship. He said so in the context of his time, when
it was evident that to destroy worship, destroyed man.
Nonetheless, in our new context in which worship, and thus also the
face of human dignity, has been lost, it is once again up to us to
understand the priority of worship. We must make youth, ourselves and our
communities, aware of the fact that it is not a luxury of our confused
epoch that we cannot permit ourselves but a priority. Wherever worship is
no longer, wherever it is not a priority to pay honor to God, human
realities can make no headway.
We must therefore endeavor to make the face of Christ visible, the face
of the living God, so that like the Magi we may spontaneously fall to our
knees and adore him. Two things certainly happened in the Magi: first they
sought; then they found and worshipped him.
Today, many people are searching. We too are searching. Basically, in a
different dialectic, both these things must always exist within us. We
must respect each one's own search. We must sustain it and make them feel
that faith is not merely a dogmatism complete in itself that puts an end
to seeking, that extinguishes man's great thirst, but that it directs the
great pilgrimage towards the infinite; we, as believers, are always
simultaneously seekers and finders.
In his Commentary on the Psalms, St Augustine interprets so splendidly
the expression "Quaerite faciem eius semper", "constantly
seek his face", that ever since my student days his words have lived on in
my heart. This is not only true for this life, but for eternity; his face
will be one to ceaselessly rediscover. The more deeply we penetrate the
splendor of divine love, the greater will be our discoveries and the more
beautiful it will be to travel on and know that our seeking has no end,
hence, finding has no end and is thus eternity - the joy of seeking and at
the same time of finding.
We must support people in their search as fellow-seekers, and at the
same time we must also give them the certainty that God has found us and,
consequently, that we can find him. We want to be a Church open to the
future, rich in promises for the new generations.
It is not a matter of pandering to youth, which is basically
ridiculous, but of a true youthfulness that flows from the wellsprings of
eternity, that is ever new, that derives from the transparency of Christ
in his Church: this is how he gives us the light to continue. In this
light we can find the courage to face confidently the most difficult
question asked in the Church in Germany today.
As I have already said, on the on hand, we must accept the challenges
of youth, but on the other, we in turn must inculcate in young people
patience, without which nothing can be found; we must teach them
discernment, a healthy realism, the capacity to be decisive. A Head of
State who paid me a visit recently told me that his main concern was the
widespread inability to make definitive decisions for fear of losing
In fact, men and women become free when they bind themselves, when the
find roots, for it is then that they can grow and mature. We must teach
patience, discernment, realism, but with out false compromises, so as not
to water down the Gospel!
Escaping the quicksand
The experience of these past 20 years has taught us that every World
Youth Day is in a certain sense a new beginning for the pastoral care of
young people in the country that hosts it.. Preparing for the
event mobilizes people and resources. We have seen it right here in
Germany: how a true "mobilization" has pervaded the Country,
prompting a surge of energy.
Lastly, the celebration itself brings a gust of enthusiasm that
must be sustained and, so to speak, rendered definitive. This
enormous potential energy can further increase, spreading across the
territory. I am thinking the parishes, associations and movements. I
am thinking of the priests, Religious, catechists and animators involved
with young people. I believe that in Germany the large number of people
involved in this event is well known, am praying that each one of those
who collaborated may genuinely grow in love for Christ and for the Church,
and I encourage them all to carry on their pastoral work among the new
generations together, with a renewed spirit of service. We must relearn
willingness to serve, and transmit it.
The majority of young Germans live in comfortable social and financial
conditions. Yet we know well that difficult situations are not lacking.
In all social strata, especially those; that are better off, the number
of your people from broken families is on the rise. Unfortunately,
unemployment among young people in Germany has increased.
Moreover, many young men an women are bewildered and have no real
answers to their questions about the meaning of life and death, about
their present and their future. Many of the ideas put forward by 'modern
society lead nowhere and unfortunately, very many young people end by
sinking into the quicksand of alcohol and drugs, or caught in the clutches
of extremist groups.
Some young Germans, especially in the East, have never become
personally acquainted with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Even in the
traditionally Catholic regions, the teaching of religion and catechesis do
not always manage to forge lasting bonds between young people and the
For this reason you are all committed together - I know it - to seeking
new ways to reach out to young people, and the World Youth Days have been
- as Pope John Paul II used to say - a sort of "laboratory" for this.
I think we are all reflecting - and in the other Western countries it
is just the same - on how to make catechesis more effective- l read
in the religion is
meager, and many people often do not even know the most
basic, elementary things. What can we do?
I do not know. Perhaps on the one hand, heathens should have access to
a sort of pre-catechesis that opens them to the faith - and this is also
the content of many catechetical endeavors - but on the other, it is
always necessary to have the courage to transmit the mystery itself, in
its beauty and greatness, and pave the way to the impulse to contemplate,
love and recognize it: ah, this is it!
Two exceptional instruments
Today, in my Homily I noted that Pope John Paul II gave us two
exceptional instruments: the Catechism of the Catholic Church and
its Compendium, which he also wanted. We made sure that the German
translation was ready for World Youth Day. In Italy, half a million copies
have already been sold. It is on sale at the newsstands and rouses
peoples' curiosity. What is in it? What does the Catholic Church say?
I believe we too must have the courage to sustain this curiosity and to
attempt to make these books that represent the content of the mystery a
part of catechesis, so that by increasing the knowledge of our faith the
joy that stems from it will also increase.
I have two other aspects very much at heart. One is the pastoral care
I feel that the recitation of Vespers in the Church of St Pantaleon has
also given us the courage to help young people and to do so in the right
way, so that the Lord's call may reach them and they ask themselves: "Does
he want me?"; and so that once again the willingness to be called and to
hear such a call may increase.
The other aspect very dear to me is the pastoral care of families. We
see the threat to families; in the meantime even lay bodies recognize how
important it is that the family live as the primary cell of society, that
children be able to grow in an atmosphere of communion between the
generations, so that continuity between the present, past and future will
endure and that the continuity of values will be lasting: this is what
makes it possible to build communion in a country.
I wanted to deal precisely with these three aspects: catechesis, the
pastoral care of vocations and the pastoral care of families.
'Symphony of faith'
As we have seen, associations and movements, which are undoubtedly a
source of enrichment, play an important role in the world of youth. The
Church must make the most of these realities, and at the same time she
must guide them with pastoral wisdom, so that with the variety of their
different gifts they may contribute in the best possible way to building
up the community without ever entering into competition - each one
building, so to speak, its own little church -, but respecting one another
and working together for the one Church - for the one parish as the local
Church - to awaken in young people the joy of faith, love for the Church
and passion for the Kingdom of God.
I think that precisely this is another important aspect: this authentic
communion on the one hand between the various movements whose forms of
exclusivism should be eliminated, and on the other, between the local
Churches and the movements, so that the local Churches recognize this
particularity, which seems strange to many, and welcome it in itself as a
treasure, understanding that in the Church there are many ways and that
all together they converge in a symphony of faith. The local Churches and
movements are not in opposition to one another, but constitute the living
structure of the Church.
Dear Brothers, please God, there will be other occasions on which to go
deeply into the issues that challenge our common pastoral solicitude. This
time I wanted, very briefly and not exhaustively, of course, to convey the
message that the great pilgrimage of young people has left us. It seems to
me that at the end of this event, the young people's request to us might
be summed up as: "Yes, we came to worship him. We met him. Now help us to
become his disciples and witnesses". It is a demanding appeal, but
especially comforting to a Pastor's heart.
May the memory of the days spent in Cologne under the banner of hope
sustain our common service!
I leave you with my affectionate encouragement, which at the same time
is a heartfelt brotherly request: always proceed and work in agreement, on
the basis of a communion of which the Eucharist is the summit and the
I entrust you all to Mary, the Mother of Christ and of the Church, and
I impart my Apostolic Blessing to each one of you and to your communities.