35,000 Neocatechumenal Youths Are Told: Pope "Counts on You"

Meet in Amsterdam

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AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, MAY 5, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Like his predecessor, Benedict XVI is counting on young people to evangelize Europe, says a Vatican official.



Addressing more than 35,000 youths of the Neocatechumenal Way who met in Amsterdam last Saturday, Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko said: "Like John Paul II, so Benedict XVI counts on you, on the enthusiasm of your faith, on the missionary impulse shown these days, proclaiming Christ in 150 cities of Europe."

The president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity expressed Benedict XVI's greetings to the young people from 28 countries, including nations of the East such as Russia, Bosnia, Romania and Hungary, according to the Veritas agency.

The meeting was in preparation for the World Youth Day this August in Cologne, Germany.

During their journey from their native countries to the Dutch capital, groups of young people stopped off in key European cities, such as Brussels, Paris, Berlin and Tours, determined to "re-evangelize Europe" with songs and sermons, as well as invitations to World Youth Day.

The journey's final stage was Amsterdam, where the young participants met in the Ajax stadium with Archbishop Rylko, with Kiko Argüello and Carmen Hernández -- founders of the Way -- and Father Mario Pezzi.

Also present at the meeting were Bishop Joseph Punt of Haarlem-Amsterdam and the papal nuncio in the Netherlands.

The Pope's greetings, expressed by Archbishop Rylko, added "I await you" in Cologne. The greeting was sent via a text signed by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state.

The Pontiff expressed his appreciation for your "missionary spirit and desire to proclaim the Gospel to your contemporaries estranged from Christ and the faith giving reason of your faith."

"The Pope is with you," added Archbishop Rylko. "Cologne is the heart of Europe and you must demonstrate that Christianity is not its past but its present and future. ... Christ, the Church, Europe needs you."

Bishop Punt of Haarlem, when welcoming the pilgrims, said: "The Church in the Netherlands was the first to experience crisis; I hope it will be the first to come out of it with the new evangelization."

"Over the last weeks we have seen that the Church is not old or sick, but young and full of life," he said, as reported by the Italian newspaper Avvenire. "You are one of the vital branches of the new Church."

For his part, Neocatechumenate co-founder Kiko Argüello said: "We cannot remain at peace in the face of the number of suicides, divorces and suffering in Europe, when Christ gave his life for men, died and resurrected. How can we make the Gospel credible? There must be witnesses."

The Neocatechumenal Way, whose statutes were approved by the Holy See in June 2002, is "at the service of diocesan bishops and parish priests as a way of rediscovering the sacrament of baptism, and of continuing education in the faith." The Way is active in 900 dioceses worldwide.

At least 1,500 seminarians have come from its communities, and more than 1,000 priests have been ordained.

In the Netherlands, there are 26 Neocatechumenal communities in 15 parishes, in the dioceses of Rotterdam, Haarlem and Roermond.

"Holland has had its windows closed for too long," said Bishop Franciscus Wiertz of Roermond. "It warms the heart to see these young Catholics meeting to celebrate their faith in such an enthusiastic way."