MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE EU YOUTH CONFERENCE
Prague, 11-13 July 2022 (2nd part)
Care for the common good
The other proposal I would like to mention concerns care for the common home.
Here too I was pleased to note that while previous generations talked a lot and concluded little, you on the other hand have been capable of concrete initiatives. That is why I say that this, more than ever, is the right time. If you do not succeed in turning this self-destructive trend around, it will be difficult for others to do so in the future. Don’t let yourselves be seduced by the sirens that propose a life of luxury reserved for a small slice of the world.
Instead, have that “broad outlook” that can take in all the rest of humanity, which is much bigger than our little continent. May you aspire to a life of dignity and sobriety, without luxury and waste, so that everyone in our world can enjoy a dignified existence. There is an urgent need to reduce the consumption not only of fossil fuels but also of so many superfluous things.
In this regard, it will do you good – if you have not already done so – to read my Encyclical Laudato Si', in which believers and non-believers alike can find solid motivations for committing themselves to an integral ecology. An education, then, aimed not only at knowing oneself and others, but also creation.
Dear young people, while you are holding your Conference, in Ukraine – which is not in the EU, but is Europe – a senseless war is being fought. Added to the numerous conflicts taking place in different regions of the world, it makes the need for an educational pact that educates everyone to fraternity all the more urgent.
The idea of a united Europe arose from a powerful yearning for peace in the wake of the numerous wars fought on this continent, and it led to a seventy-year period of peace. Now we must all commit ourselves to putting an end to this dreadful war, where, as usual, a few powerful people decide and send thousands of young people to fight and die. In cases like this, it is legitimate to rebel!
Someone has said that, if the world were ruled by women, there would not be so many wars, because those who have the mission of giving life cannot make death choices. In a similar vein, I like to think that if the world were ruled by young people, there would not be so many wars. Those who have their whole life ahead of them do not want to ruin it and throw it away, but to live it to the full.
I would like to invite you to get to know the extraordinary figure of a young objector, a young European with “a broad outlook”, who fought against Nazism during the Second World War. His name was Franz Jägerstätter, and he was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI. Franz was a young Austrian who, because of his Catholic faith, made a conscientious objection to the injunction to swear allegiance to Hitler and go to war. As a boy, he was cheerful, likeable and carefree, but as he matured, thanks also to his wife Franziska, with whom he had three children, he changed his life and developed profound convictions. When called to arms, he refused, because he felt it was unjust to kill innocent lives. His decision triggered harsh reactions towards him from his community, the mayor, and even members of his family. A priest tried to dissuade him for the sake of his family. Everyone was against him, except his wife Franziska, who, despite knowing the price to be paid, always stood by her husband and supported him to the end. Despite cajoling and torture, Franz preferred to be killed than to kill. He considered the war totally unjustified. If all the young men called to arms had done as he did, Hitler would not have been able to carry out his diabolical plans. To triumph, evil needs accomplices.
Franz Jägerstätter was executed in the same prison where his contemporary Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young German Lutheran theologian and anti-Nazi, was also imprisoned and met the same tragic end.
These two young men of “broad outlook” were killed because they remained faithful to the ideals of their faith to the end. Here we can see a fourth dimension of education: alongside knowledge of oneself, of others and of creation, also knowledge of the beginning and end of all things. Dear young Europeans, I invite you to look upwards and beyond, to keep seeking the real meaning of your life, where you come from and where you are going, and the Truth, because we cannot live authentically if we do not seek the Truth. Walk with your feet firmly planted on the earth, but with a broad gaze, open to the horizon, open to the sky. Reading my Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit, addressed especially to young people, can help you in this. And I invite all of you to next year’s World Youth Day in Lisbon. There you will be able to share your finest and most beautiful dreams with young people from all over the world.
Let me conclude with a wish. May you be generative! Young people capable of generating new ideas, new visions of the world, of the economy, of politics, of social coexistence, but above of new paths to be travelled together. And may you also be generous in generating new lives, always and only as the fruit of love! The love of husband and wife, the love of family and children, but also love of Europe, so that it can be for everyone a land of peace, freedom and dignity.
I send you my warm greeting and my blessing. And I ask you, please, to pray for me.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, 6 July 2022
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