Youth Missionary Service Marks a Milestone

Pope and Focolare Founder Join in Anniversary Event

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 1, 2004 (Zenit.org).- A festive meeting of 10,000 young people brought John Paul II and other Church leaders together to help mark the 40th anniversary of a group dedicated to peace.



Saturday's two-hour event in Paul VI Hall was organized by the Turin-based Youth Missionary Service to mark its anniversary. The meeting included testimonies, songs and a musical work on the hopes and tragedies of the world.

The Youth Missionary Service, founded by layman Ernesto Olivero and known by its Italian acronym SERMIG, has carried out 1,700 development projects in 125 countries.

It has promoted humanitarian missions in war-torn countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian Territories, as well as provided shelter for children in Brazil, Romania, Tanzania and Bangladesh.

The celebration, whose theme was "Peace Will Conquer If We Dialogue," began with a brief statement by Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement. She spoke about the various types of dialogue, including dialogue between religions, and between believers and nonbelievers.

"Let us hear and communicate the ardent longing for peace in hearts," Lubich said.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano reminded his listeners that "the Gospel of Christ is a Gospel of peace. It is necessary, therefore, to create that civilization of love which calls for the contribution of every Christian."

"It is true that it is not enough to proclaim peace with words; it is also necessary to carry out deeds of peace in the family, in school, at work, and in civil society," the cardinal said.

"Some, moreover, have the possibility to work for peace in the international realm," he added. "In a word, each one of us, more than being a 'pacifist" should be a pacifier."

SERMIG founder Olivero said: "We must make peace above all in our hearts, in our minds, and in our families."

"We cannot allow ourselves to consume what we consume in a world in which some 30-40,000 die of hunger every day," Olivero said. "Each one of us must be an artisan of peace."

"We must understand that we have enormous possibilities," he said. "For any one who believes in Jesus, Jesus says that we can do greater things than he did. And if he said it, it is possible. Ten thousand young people who enter this dimension can change the world."

The two-hour meeting ended with the arrival of the Pope, who spoke of dialogue as a necessary instrument for peace.