YOUNG Catholics must embrace the present and future of the Church through relationships with their community and God, Pope Francis wrote in his new apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit (Christ is Alive).
“The very first words, then, that I would like to say to every young Christian are these – Christ is alive and he wants you to be alive,” Pope Francis said.
“(Christ) is our hope, and in a wonderful way he brings youth to our world, and everything he touches becomes young, new, full of life.”
The exhortation takes the form of a letter to young people and, through them, to the entire People of God.
“With great affection, I address this Apostolic Exhortation to all Christian young people,” he said.
“It is meant to remind you of certain convictions born of our faith, and at the same time to encourage you to grow in holiness and in commitment to your personal vocation.
“But since it is also part of a synodal process, I am also addressing this message to the entire People of God, pastors and faithful alike, since all of us are challenged and urged to reflect both on the young and for the young. “Consequently, I will speak to young people directly in some places, while in others I will propose some more general considerations for the Church’s discernment.”
Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher, a Synod delegate and then-Bishop Delegate for Youth, said Pope Francis “presents a vision of and for youth that is optimistic and hopeful”.
“I am pleased that the Holy Father dedicates much of this letter to encouraging young people to cultivate a friendship with Jesus Christ and to invest in family life, in building relationships within their community and to join with others to serve the poor,” Archbishop Fisher said.
“There are so many voices in society today promoting individualism and independence as a means of personal fulfilment, but this has left too many youth feeling increasingly isolated, even with the ease of present forms of communication,” Archbishop Fisher said.
Wilcannia-Forbes Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green, the Delegate for Youth, said there was a strong message of hope in Christus Vivit.
“In the midst of all the problems in our world and in our Church that cause anxiety and alienation among many young people, the Pope’s exhortation offers young people the hope of Christ,” Bishop Macbeth-Green said.
“Pope Francis is not afraid to name the problems facing young people in our world, particularly exploitation in all its many forms, but he does not dwell on the negatives.
“He invites young people to take their place as the ‘now of the Church’, work in solidarity to fight evil and live the gift of the ‘present’.”
Bishop Macbeth-Green said he was heartened by the three “truths” Pope Francis offered to young people – “God loves you”; “Christ saves you”; and “Jesus is alive”.
“The challenge now for young people – and indeed for all the Church – is to bring the Pope’s words off the page and into our hearts,” he said.
ACBC Office for Youth director Malcolm Hart said it would take time to reflect upon the 68-page document, but some early messages spoke loudly.
“Christus Vivit acknowledges many of the challenges facing the young, including how older people sometimes dismiss them, but also the gifts and energy they bring to our world,” Mr Hart, who also serves as a consultor to the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, said.
“Pope Francis calls the Church to become young again and embrace the opportunities presented by young people.”