"For Many People It Will Be the Beginning of a Friendship With God"

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, AUG. 18, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a transcription and translation of the press conference Benedict XVI gave today en route to Madrid, where he will lead World Youth Day.

Q: Madrid's is the 26th World Youth Day. At the beginning of your pontificate, we wondered if you would continue in your predecessor's wake. What significance do you see for these events within the pastoral strategy of the universal Church?

Benedict XVI: Dear friends, good morning. I am delighted to travel with you to Spain for this great event.

After living two World Youth Days firsthand, I can say that it was truly an inspiration given to Pope John Paul II when he created this reality: a great meeting of young people of the world with the Lord. I would say that these WYDs are a sign, a cascade of light -- they give visibility to the faith, visibility to the presence of God in the world, and thus give the courage to be believers. Often, believers feel isolated in this world, somewhat lost. Here they see that they are not alone, that there is a great network of faith, a great community of believers in the world. [They see that] it is lovely to live in this universal friendship, and in this way friendships are born that cross the borders of cultures, of countries. The birth of a universal network of friendship that unites the world with God is an important reality for the future of humanity, for the life of humanity today.

Naturally, WYD cannot be an isolated event; it is part of a greater journey. This journey of the cross must be prepared, which transmigrates to different countries and involves young people with the sign of the cross and the sign of the image of the Virgin. In this way the preparation of WYD, much more than a technical preparation -- and it is an event with many technical problems -- is an interior preparation, a going out to others and, together, to God. Thus groups of friendship are created. This universal contact opens the borders of cultures in a continuous journey, which then leads to a new summit, a new WYD. I think WYD should be considered in this sense as a sign, as part of a great journey; it creates friendships, opens borders, makes visible that it is beautiful to be with God, that God is with us. In this connection, we wish to continue with this great idea of Blessed Pope John Paul II.

Q: Europe and the Western world are going through a profound economic crisis, which also shows signs of a great social and moral crisis, of great uncertainty for the future, particularly painful for young people. What messages can the Church offer to give hope and encouragement to the young people of the world?

Benedict XVI: [We see] confirmed in the present economic crisis what has already been seen in the great preceding crisis: that an ethical dimension is not something exterior to economic problems, but an interior and fundamental dimension. The economy does not function with mercantile self-regulation alone, but it has need of an ethical reason to function for man. This can be seen in what was already said in John Paul II's first social encyclical: Man must be at the center of the economy and the economy must not be measured according to greatest profit, but according to the good of all. It includes responsibility for the other, and it really functions well only if it functions in a human way in regard to the other, in his various dimensions: responsibility with one's nation, and not just with oneself, responsibility with the world. Nations are not isolated, not even Europe is isolated, but they are responsible for the whole of humanity and must always think of addressing economic problems in a context of responsibility, in particular with the other parts of the world, with those who suffer, who are thirsty and hungry, and have no future. Hence, the third dimension of this responsibility is responsibility with the future: We know that we must protect our planet, but we must protect the functioning of the service of economic work for all and think that tomorrow is also today. If the young people of today do not find prospects in their life, our today is also mistaken, it is wrong. Therefore, the Church with her social doctrine, with her doctrine on responsibility before God, opens one to the capacity of giving up the greatest profit and seeing in realities the humanistic and religious dimension, that is, that we are made for one another and so it is also possible to open paths -- as happens with the great number of volunteers who work in different parts of the world not for themselves, but for others, and thus they find the meaning of their life. This can be achieved with an education in the great objectives, as the Church tries to do. This is essential for our future.

Q: I would like to ask you about the relationship between truth and multi-culturalism. Can insistence on the one Truth that is Christ be a problem for young people of today?

Benedict XVI: The relationship between truth and intolerance, monotheism and an incapacity for dialogue with others, is a discussion that frequently is taken up for debate regarding Christianity today. And of course it is true that in history there have been abuses, both of the concept of truth as well as the concept of monotheism. There have been abuses, but the reality is totally different, as truth is only accessible in liberty. A behavior, observances, a way of acting can be imposed with violence, but not truth. Truth opens only to free consent and, for this reason, liberty and truth are united intimately, one is condition of the other. Moreover, we seek truth, authentic values that give life to the future. Without a doubt, we do not want lies, we do not want the Positivism of norms imposed with a certain force. Only authentic values lead to the future and hence it is necessary to seek authentic values and not leave them to the will of some, not allow a positivist reason to be imposed that tells us that there is no rational truth on ethical problems and on man's great problems. This means exposing man to the will of those who have power. We must always be in search of truth, of values; we have fundamental human rights. These fundamental rights are known and recognized and, in fact, this puts us in dialogue with one another. Truth as such is open-minded, as it seeks to know better, to understand better, and it does so in dialogue with others. Thus, to seek truth and man's dignity is the best defense of liberty.

Q: What must be done for the positive experience of the WYD to continue in daily life?

Benedict XVI: God's sowing is always silent; it does not appear in the statistics, and the seed that the Lord sows with WYD is like the seed of which the Gospel speaks: part falls on the road and is lost; part falls on stone and is lost; part falls on thorns and is lost; but a part falls on good earth and gives much fruit. This is, in fact, what happens with the sowing of WYD: Much is lost and this is human. To use other words of the Lord, the mustard seed is small, but it grows and becomes a great tree. Certainly much is lost. We cannot say that starting tomorrow a great growth will begin in the Church. God does not act like this. [His seed] grows in silence. I know that other WYDs have awakened friendships, friendships for life; so many new experiences that God exists. And we trust in this silent growth, and we are certain that, although the statistics do not say much about it, the Lord's seed really grows. And for many people it will be the beginning of a friendship with God and with others, of a universality of thought, of a common responsibility that really shows that these days give fruit.

(Source: Transcription by Jesús Colina; translation by ZENIT)