Pope to Youth: "Spe Salvi" Is for You

Encourages Reflection on Hope in the Modern Age

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is encouraging university students to have group reflections on the theme of hope in the modern world, using his encyclical "Spe Salvi."

The Pope spiritually entrusted his second encyclical to the young people today, in a traditional pre-Christmas encounter with Rome's university students.

After a Mass celebrated by the Pontiff's vicar for Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Holy Father addressed the young people: "I spiritually entrust [the encyclical] to you, dear university students of Rome, and through you, to the entire world of the university, the school, culture and of education.

"Is the theme of hope perhaps not particularly suitable for youth?"

He continued: "I propose to you that you reflect, individually and in groups, on that part of the encyclical which speaks about hope in the modern age.

"In the 17th century, Europe went through an epoch-making change. Since then a mentality has become ever more widespread, according to which human progress is the work of science and technology, while faith concerns only the salvation of the soul. The two great concepts of modernity -- reason and freedom -- have been, so to say, 'disengaged' from God."

Benedict XVI said reason and freedom have "become autonomous and work together in the construction of the 'kingdom of man,' which in practice contrasts with the Kingdom of God. Hence, the spread of materialist ideas, nourished by the hope that, by changing economic and political structures, it will finally be possible to achieve a just society in which peace, freedom and equality reign."

"However, this process," the Pope continued, "which is not without its merits and its historical causes, contains a basic error: Man is not just the result of certain economic and social conditions. Technological progress does not necessarily coincide with the moral development of mankind. In fact without ethical principles, science and technology can be used -- as has happened and unfortunately still does happen -- not for the good but to the detriment of individuals and humanity."

On saying goodbye to the youth, the Pope asked that Rome may be "a model of hospitality for foreign students."