Pope Urges Youth to Form Friendship With Christ

Says This Relationship Key for Responding to Modern World

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 19, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI greeted university students gathered for an annual conference sponsored by Opus Dei, and encouraged them to foster a personal relationship with Christ so as to be able to respond to the great questions of our time.



The Pope greeted in three languages the 3,000 participants of the international UNIV congress, gathered today in St. Peter's Basilica. He then gave the traditional catechesis during his weekly general audience in Paul VI Hall.

"I offer a cordial welcome to all of you who have come to Rome from various countries and universities to celebrate Holy Week together, and to take part in the International UNIV Congress," the Holy Father told the youth. "In this way, you will be able to benefit from moments of common prayer, cultural enrichment and a helpful exchange of the experiences gained from your association with the centers and activities of Christian formation sponsored by the Prelature of Opus Dei in your respective cities and nations."

The conference this year, which ends Easter Sunday, is focused on the theme "Being, Appearing, and Communicating: Entertainment and Happiness in a Multi-Medial Society."

The Pontiff reminded the youth that with a "serious personal commitment, inspired by the Gospel values, it is possible to respond adequately to the great questions of our time.'

"The Christian knows that there is an inseparable link between the truth, ethics and responsibility," he said. "Every authentic cultural expression contributes to form the conscience and encourage the person to better himself with the end of bettering society. In this way one feels responsible before the truth, at the service of which, one must put one's own personal liberty."

A commitment

Benedict XVI said this implies "a mission requiring commitment." And to fulfill this commitment, he affirmed, "the Christian is called to follow Jesus, cultivating an intense friendship with him through prayer and contemplation."

"To be friends of Christ, and to give testimony of him wherever we are, demands, furthermore, the strength to go against the grain, remembering the words of the Lord: You are in the world but not of the world," he added.

The Pope encouraged the youth: "Do not be afraid, then, to be nonconformists when it is necessary; at your university, school and in all places."

"Dear young people of UNIV, be leaven of hope in the world that desires to meet Jesus, often without knowing it," he urged. "To better the world, make an effort above all to change yourselves through an intense sacramental life, especially through approaching the sacrament of penance, and participating assiduously in the celebration of the Eucharist."

The UNIV conferences began in 1968, inspired and encouraged by Opus Dei's founder, Monsignor Josemaría Escrivá, who was canonized in 2002.