President of Pontifical Council for Laity speaks to young people about Saint's devotion to youth of the world.
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Vatican City – We’re in the final run-up to the great Canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII. During these last days of joyous anticipation Cardinal Rylko, President for the Pontifical Council for the Laity spoke to the young people of the Vatican’s international youth centre Centro San Lorenzo about Blessed John Paul II’s love of and devotion towards to the youth of the World, which was particularly evident in his institution of World Youth Day.
“Once John Paul II, when talking with the Polish youth” began the Cardinal, “opened up his heart before them saying ‘I take inside of me a great zeal, and it is a zeal for you young people.’”
Rylko affirmed that this phrase characterised the “great love that John Paul II always had for the younger generations, who he met along his way.”
He explained how the Blessed actually defined himself as a “friend” to the young people, “but this friendship was also a need of his, and this has been very important for his pedagogy and his relationship with the youth that he met” said Rylko, “to be with the young people was a profound necessity of his heart; each meeting he had with the youth rejuvenated his strengths.”
Even throughout his old age and time of illness, the Cardinal recalled, “you could see how good he felt to be among the youth.” A fine example of this was that unforgettable Saturday night in Tor Vegata, Rome, with his beloved young people at World Youth Day. The image of the almost crippled John Paul, dancing with his young friends, face illuminated with joy, is one that has remained in many people’s hearts over the years.
“He wasn’t just their teacher as such,” insisted Rylko, “but a dear friend, an authentic witness of God.
“During his pontificate he really bet upon the youth” he continued, “and he was never let down by them, he saw in them allies in his mission, in the mission of evangelisation, in the method of searching for new ways of bringing Christ to the people.”
He explained how in all of his apostolic visits, which touched down in more than 130 different countries and in all of the continents, “millions and millions of people listened to him, and in their own language. And during these visits he never forgot to meet with the youth; this was a fixed appointment that he sought, and the youth sought it with him, and they let themselves be guided by him.”
“What’s more” he continued, “he was aware that it was not him that the youth looked for, but Christ. This was something he said himself.”
The Cardinal explained that the soon-to-be-saint spoke to the young people about the “great mystery of God” and that it is only in Jesus Christ that “we as humans can find a full reply to the deepest questions we have in our hearts.”
It was precisely for this dialogue and zeal that the “youth were faithful to him right until the end” he professed, “when he returned to the house of the Father on that unforgettable day, 23 April 2005.”
He then referred to those piercing words of the Blessed, addressed to the youth in St Peter’s Square: “You are the future of the world and hope of the church, you are my hope!”
“It was here that his great world adventure began” Rylko affirmed, and his “great project to evangelise the young generations, a project to which he was faithful throughout the rest of his life.”
“He saw in the youth the fundamental and daily journey of the Church” he added.
Rylko explained that the Saint had a very “high concept of the youth” in which being young is not just “personal property”, but that it “belongs to the whole complex of that space that every human travels through during their life, and is a special part of each and every person, and thus it is a
Good of humanity itself.”
“There is a spiritual richness in being young” he emphasises, “which is a richness of the Church.”
The Cardinal said that a real “sense of urgency” emerged from this reflection of John Paul II, for taking care of and nurturing “this treasure of being young, and not wasting it.”
He said that the Blessed made a particular link between the youth and the Church. He wrote that the Church, looking to itself in the youth, in each young person, “discovers its youth, and thus discovers the enthusiasm to face its mission and the different challenges that the world throws its way today.”
Rylko remembered those joy filled days on the beaches of Copacabana at WYD Rio 2013: “Here I realised that WYD is the celebration of the youth of the Church, and youth means the future,” he stressed. “John Paul II said that we need the enthusiasm of the youth; we need to live with the youth and with that original joy of God creating man, that the youth experience in themselves.”
He continued: “Today they write a lot about young people, and the situation of the youth, and they are often very critical and pessimistic. However, John Paul II’s vision of the youth was decisively positive.”
In quoting the Blessed he said “’the youth have an immense potentiality for good and creativity’, and he saw this in them, and searched to bring this out in them, to bring it to fruition. This was the fundamental greatness of his dialogue with the youth.”
“‘Look, in you there is something precious, protect it! Let it grow!’” he cried.
John Paul II looked at the youth above all with vision of the holy design of God saying “the youth search for God, for the meaning of life, for definitive answers to the question of what they have to do to receive eternal life” and in this searching he said “it is not possible that they can’t meet the Church and Jesus, and that the Church can’t meet the young people!”
This searching is vital, and is something upon which John Paul II insisted, saying “the Church has much to say to the youth, but the youth has much to say to the Church. It’s not a one way dialogue but a true exchange.”
This is why he entrusted that Cross of the year of redemption in 1984 saying “Dear youth, at the end of this holy year I give you the cross of Christ, take it throughout the world, as the symbol, of hope, salvation and redemption.”
The youth welcomed this mission of JPII’s. And the cross received in gift, was taken as the centrepiece of every WYD, in every continent.”
According to Rylko it was in this unique atmosphere of WYD that the “special charism of John Paul II was manifested in an important way… it has a extraordinary adventure of faith that welcomes millions of youth from all over the world:”
“How much poorer would the church be today without the WYD, which opens up this spirit of joy and hope together with the youth? The amount of priests and even bishops participating …it is like a boom of oxygen, a gift of hope.”
He recalled a time when he spoke to the bishops responsible for organising WYD in Spain who at the beginning were very pessimistic about the whole thing. However after having lived the experience they said to the Cardinal: “We weren’t the bishops to evangelise the young, but it was the young people who evangelised us bishops. We had too little faith in our young people.”
“And this happens every WYD,” he added. “How many changes of life, authentic conversions among the youth, how many of them, have made choices into consecrated life or married life here?!”
Finally he emph
asised the great gift that we have been given in the Canonization of John Paull II, saying that it will be one that “brings great joy to the Church and its people,”
“I’m convinced that he will continue to love the youth, to be a great friend of the youth, and a friend even now” concluded the Cardinal.
“So don’t be afraid!” he exclaimed, addressing the youth, “entrust yourselves to him and his intercession, all your problems that seem difficult to overcome, for you have a great friend in heaven.”