-- ZENIT.org News Agency
Pope to Mideast Youth: Don't Taste 'Bitter Sweetness' of Emigration
Asks Them to Show That Islam and Christianity Can Live Side by Side Without Hatred
By Kathleen Naab
BEIRUT, Lebanon, SEPT. 15, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Before a vast and enthusiastic crowd of young people this evening in Lebanon, Benedict XVI voiced a strong appeal to end the emigration of Christians from the Holy Land, opposing the trend that has decimated the native Christian population of the region and that is expected to continue to diminish it.
The Pope concluded his second day in Beirut with the youth encounter, offering his own reflections after listening attentively to presentations given by a young woman and a young man.
The Holy Father began by telling the Lebanese youth -- and their guests from Syria, the Holy Land, and other places of the region -- that it is a "great honor" to live in the part of the world that "witnessed the birth of Jesus and the growth of Christianity."
"It is also a summons to fidelity, to love of this region and, above all, to your calling to be witnesses and messengers of the joy of Christ."
The Bishop of Rome acknowledged the many difficulties that plague the region, such that young people face instability and lack of security, as well as unemployment.
"But not even unemployment and uncertainty should lead you to taste the bitter sweetness of emigration, which involves an uprooting and a separation for the sake of an uncertain future," the Pope said. "You are meant to be protagonists of your country's future and to take your place in society and in the Church."
The Holy Father went on to offer some more practical tips, so that the "frustrations of the present moment" do not lead the youth to "take refuge in parallel worlds like those, for example, of the various narcotics or the bleak world of pornography."
Regarding social networks, he said, "they are interesting but they can quite easily lead to addiction and confusion between the real and the virtual. Look for relationships of genuine, uplifting friendship. Find ways to give meaning and depth to your lives; fight superficiality and mindless consumption!"
The Pontiff also warned of the "tyrannical idol" of money, "which blinds to the point of stifling the person at the heart." And he lamented that the "examples being held up all around you are not always the best."
Benedict XVI's address affirmed his hope for the future reflected in the youth, as he asked them to bring Christ's love to everyone.
"Christ asks you, then, to do as he did: to be completely open to others, even if they belong to a different cultural, religious or national group," the Pontiff said. "[...] Experiencing together moments of friendship and joy enables us to resist the onset of division, which must always be rejected! Brotherhood is a foretaste of heaven! [...] Young people of Lebanon, you are the hope and the future of your country."
Along these lines, the Pontiff offered a special greeting to the young Muslims in the crowd: "Together with the young Christians, you are the future of this fine country and of the Middle East in general. Seek to build it up together! And when you are older, continue to live in unity and harmony with Christians."
The Pope noted the weighty responsibility resting on the youth: "It is vital that the Middle East in general, looking at you, should understand that Muslims and Christians, Islam and Christianity, can live side by side without hatred, with respect for the beliefs of each person, so as to build together a free and humane society."
The Holy Father concluded with a special message of consolation for Syria, assuring that the country and its violent conflict are among his prayers and concerns. And he entrusted the youth to Mary, and to Blessed John Paul II.
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