By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Almost a half million youth were urged to become “prophets of a new age” by Pope Benedict XVI at the closing Mass of World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia.
The Pope’s challenge to bring faith into a “spiritually barren” world was made to the huge crowd of youth from over 170 countries at Sydney’s Royal Randwick Racecourse during a Mass attended by 26 cardinals and 420 bishops. A 300-member choir and 80 piece orchestra provided the music for the liturgy.
Pope Benedict told the pilgrims that a new generation of Christians was being called to help build a world in which God’s gift of life was welcomed and love was not greedy or self-seeking but pure, faithful and genuinely free.
He spoke of a “new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships. The world needs this renewal,” he said in a homily that was beamed to millions of television viewers worldwide.
“In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair. How many of our contemporaries have built broken cisterns in desperate search for meaning, the ultimate meaning that only love can give?”
The Church was also in need of this renewal, he said. “She needs your faith, your idealism and your generosity so that she can always be young in the spirit.”
He then urged youth, “Do not be afraid to say yes to Jesus, to find your joy in doing his will, giving yourself completely to the pursuit of holiness, and using all your talents in the service of others.”
During the Mass, he officiated over the sacrament of confirmation for 24 adults, including two from each Australian state.
Australia’s Catholic leader, Sydney Archbishop George Pell, told pilgrims the Church was too often weighed down with the sins of her children, too often appeared disfigured and discouraged.
But at World Youth Day, the Church “appears as she truly is, alive with evangelical energy.”
The Pope left Sydney on Monday morning for the 20 hour return trip to Rome.
The next World Youth Day is scheduled for 2011 in Madrid, Spain.
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