A vibrant, joyful, authentic Church, moving towards – and with – society, was what attracted over 2,300 Dutch youth to Utrecht, one Sunday at the end of November. The event was the first national appointment, set as a follow-up of the World Youth Day (WYD) last August in Cologne, Germany. A participation as numerous as this has not been seen in decades.
The event was the fruit of collaboration between dioceses and ecclesial movements, carried out in an atmosphere of profound communion. These ecclesial movements include Charismatic Renewal, the Committee of Young Catholics, Emanuel and the Focolare. It was a communion among charisms, like the one already experienced during the preparation of the WYD.
“The happiness you seek, the happiness you have the right to enjoy, has a name, a face: that of Jesus of Nazareth.” This sentence is the center of the Pope’s profound and warm message, personally signed by him and welcomed by the youth with a long applause. Benedict XVI encouraged the young people to deepen their relationship with Jesus through the Sacraments and so be able to assume their responsibilities, both in their personal lives and in society.
The meeting continued with workshops and group discussions regarding catechesis and its social application. The discussions thus ranged from such topics as faith, ethics and science, how to practice politics and economy as a Christian, ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. It was amazing to see how much these young people longed to deepen their faith and what a thirst they had for the truth.
“The fog that has hung over the Dutch Catholic youth for decades has disappeared,” said Auxiliary Bishop of Roermond (Netherlands) De Jong, during his homily. Bishop De Jong, who is in charge of youth apostolate, concelebrated with Cardinal Simonis at the Mass which concluded the youth day. His words expressed the commonly felt certainty that in their increasingly secularized society, in the womb of the Church something new and irreversible is born.
What is happening in the Netherlands is also happening in other European countries. As Lorenzo Fazzini wrote in the Dec. 8 issue of Avvenire, “there is an atmosphere of spirituality,” and this new-found interior life is reflected in openness to others which – in many cases – is translated into social commitment and the choice to serve the poorest.