Yesterday evening in the Vatican Basilica, the Pope presided at a penitential celebration with thousands of young people from the diocese of Rome in preparation for the forthcoming World Youth Day. The Day is due to be held on Palm Sunday, April 1, on the theme: "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another."
"The heart of all mankind ... thirsts for love," said the Holy Father in his homily. "Christians, even more so, cannot live without love. Indeed, if they do not find true love they cannot even call themselves fully Christian because, ... 'being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.'
"God's love for us," he added, "which began with the creation, became visible in the mystery of the Cross. ... A crucified love that does not stop at the outrage of Good Friday but culminates in the joy of the Resurrection ... and the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love by which, this evening too, sins will be remitted and forgiveness and peace granted."
This divine love "may be described with the term 'agape,' in other words 'the self-giving love of one who looks exclusively for the good of the other,' but also with the term 'eros'" because "it is also a love in which the heart of the Almighty awaits the 'yes' of His creatures." And "in the sacrifice of the Cross, God continues to present His love ... coming 'to beg' the love of His creatures."
"With Baptism you were born to new life by virtue of the grace of God. However, since this new life has not suppressed the weakness of human nature, ... you are given the opportunity to use the Sacrament of Confession. ... And thus you experience the forgiveness of sins; reconciliation with the Church; the recovery, if lost, of the state of grace; ... peace and serenity of conscience and the consolation of the spirit; and an increase of spiritual strength for the Christian struggle."
Christ "hopes we will allow ourselves to be attracted by His love and feel all its greatness and beauty, but this is not enough. Christ attracts us to Him in order to unite Himself to each one of us, so that, in our turn, we learn to love our brothers and sisters with His same love."
"As you leave this celebration, with your hearts full of the experience of God's love, be prepared 'to dare' to love in your families, in your dealings with your friends and even with those who have offended you. Be prepared to bear a truly Christian witness" in all environments.
Benedict XVI called upon newly-engaged couples to experience the period of their engagement "in the true love which always involves mutual, chaste and responsible respect. And should the Lord call some of you, dear young people of Rome, to a life of special consecration, be ready to answer with a generous and uncompromising 'yes'."
"Dear young people, the world awaits your contribution for the building of the 'civilization of love.' ... Do not become discouraged and always have faith in Christ and in the Church."
Following the liturgy the Pope put on a purple stole and entered the confessional to administer the Sacrament of Penance to six young people. Fifty-five priests joined him in administering the Sacrament to others present in the Vatican Basilica.