BEIRUT, Lebanon — Pope Benedict XVI has challenged young Christians and Muslims in the Middle East to reject the path of violence and hate and instead unleash a “revolution of love.”
“It is vital that the Middle East in general, looking at you, should understand that Muslims and Christians, Islam and Christianity, can live side by side without hatred, with respect for the beliefs of each person, so as to build together a free and humane society,” the Pope told an open-air gathering of young people in Bkerke, Lebanon, Sept. 15.
Gathered in the square in front of the residence of the country’s Maronite Patriarchate, the tens of thousands of young people heard the Pope tell them that they were “the future of this fine country and of the Middle East in general.”
In recent years, educated young people have been at the vanguard of anti-government protests across the Middle East, the so-called “Arab Spring.” Pope Benedict used his address to outline a different revolution: one begun by Jesus Christ.
“The universal brotherhood which he inaugurated on the cross lights up in a resplendent and challenging way the revolution of love: ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ This is the legacy of Jesus and the sign of the Christian,” the Pope said. “This is the true revolution of love!”
While youth is a “time when we aspire to great ideals,” Pope Benedict recognized that it can also be a time of great uncertainty. Such frustrations, however, should not lead young people to “take refuge in parallel worlds like those, for example, of the various narcotics or the bleak world of pornography.”
His comments also touched upon Internet-based social networks, suggesting that while they were “interesting” they can also “quite easily lead to addiction and confusion between the real and the virtual.” Instead, young people should “look for relationships of genuine, uplifting friendship.”
He urged the tens of thousands present to “find ways to give meaning and depth” to their lives and to flee from “superficiality and mindless consumption,” including the love of money, which can be a “tyrannical idol which blinds to the point of stifling the person at the heart.”
In an apparent reference to the world of celebrity culture, Pope Benedict suggested to young people that “the examples being held up all around you are not always the best.”
Instead, he encouraged them to “seek beauty and strive for goodness.”
“Bear witness to the grandeur and the dignity of your body, which ‘is for the Lord’,” he continued. “Be thoughtful, upright and pure of heart!”
In order to strive for these goals, he recommended mediation upon holy Scripture, reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church and, in particular, prayer.
“Pray! Prayer and the sacraments are the sure and effective means to be a Christian and to live rooted and built up in Christ and established in the faith,” he said.
The Pope challenged Lebanese young people to be “heralds of the gospel of life and life’s authentic values” and to “courageously resist everything opposed to life: abortion, violence, rejection of and contempt for others, injustice and war.”
The witness of youthful faith being lived with “courage and enthusiasm” would help young people’s peers understand God’s desire for “the happiness of all without distinction.”
Towards the end of his speech Pope Benedict gave special mention to the young people who had traveled from neighboring war-torn Syria to be at the papal gathering in Bkerke.
“I want to say how much I admire your courage. Tell your families and friends back home that the Pope has not forgotten you. Tell those around you that the Pope is saddened by your sufferings and your grief.”
“It is time for Muslims and Christians to come together so as to put an end to violence and war,” he said in conclusion. He commended the youthful gathering to the protection of Blessed Pope John Paul II and Mary, “the Mother of the Lord, Our Lady of Lebanon.”