Pope Urges Salesians to Focus on Families

Says This Is the Way to Help in Formation of Youth

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 31, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Since the family should have an active role in the education of youth, it is necessary to expand youth ministry to family ministry, Benedict XVI is telling the Salesians.



The Pope encouraged the Salesians along these lines when he received in audience today representatives of that religious family, in Rome for their 29th General Chapter.

On March 25, the congregation re-elected Father Pascual Chávez Villanueva as the ninth successor of the Salesian founder, St. John Bosco, for another six years.

The chapter's theme is a motto of St. John Bosco, "Da mihi animas, cetera tolle" (give me souls, take away all else). The Holy Father commented on the theme, noting that "its aim is to reawaken apostolic passion in each individual Salesian and in the entire congregation. This will help better to define the profile of Salesians, that they may become more aware of their identity as people consecrated 'for the glory of God'" and "of their pastoral commitment 'to the salvation of souls.'"

"Another characteristic of the Salesian model is the consciousness of the inestimable value of souls," the Holy Father said.

Thus, the Salesian "should have his heart open to identify the new needs of youth and listen to their appeals for help," the Pope continued, especially that of the "most materially and spiritually poor."

Fascinated by Christ

Benedict XVI exhorted the Salesians to help youth "above all to know and love" Jesus Christ "and to allow themselves to be fascinated by him, to cultivate the evangelical commitment, to want to do good to one's contemporaries, to be apostles of other youth."

From there, the Pope urged the congregation, "That your effort would be to form laypeople with apostolic hearts, inviting all to walk in the sanctity of life that brings to mature courageous disciples and authentic apostles."

The Holy Father said he was aware that these challenges are launched in a context of a "great educational emergency," whose most grave element is "the sensation of discouragement that overcomes many educators, especially parents and professors."

"At the root of the crisis in education exists in fact a crisis of confidence in life, which deep down is nothing more than a lack of trust in the God who has called us to life," he said

In any case, the Pontiff affirmed, "in the education of youth it is extremely important that the family be an active subject."

"So often it is either unable to make its specific contribution, or it is absent," he said. "The predilection for and commitment to young people, so characteristic of Don Bosco's charism, must be translated into a like commitment to the involvement and formation of families. [...] To care for families is not to subtract force from efforts on behalf of the young, rather it makes those efforts more lasting and effective. I encourage you, then, to study ways to implement this commitment. [...] This will be an advantage in the education and evangelization of the young."

The Holy Father concluded by underlining the need for "solid formation" for all members of the congregation, "not resting content with mediocre results, overcoming the difficulties of vocational fragility, favoring strong spiritual accompaniment and guaranteeing, through permanent formation, educational and pastoral excellence."