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Benedict XVI on Youth, the Faith, and More

Interview With Vatican Radio

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 17, 2005 (Zenit) - Here is the text of an exclusive interview Benedict XVI gave to Vatican Radio and broadcast Monday, ahead of his trip to World Youth Day in Germany.

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Q: Holy Father, on April 25 you said: "I'm looking forward to Cologne." Can you describe your feelings more concretely?

Benedict XVI: Yes -- in many ways. First of all, I have spent several wonderful years in the Rhineland, so I'm simply delighted to breathe in the character of the Rhineland, of this international city and all that is connected to it.

Then there is also the fact that Providence wanted my first trip abroad to take me to Germany. I would not have dared to have initiated it. But if the Almighty God decides to do something like that to you, then one can only be delighted.

And also, this first trip abroad will be an encounter with young people from all over the world. It is always wonderful to encounter the youth, because they are full of problems -- but perhaps also full of hope, full of zest and expectation, because young people contain the dynamic of the future, and hence the encounter with them also makes oneself more sweeping, more joyful and open.

These are several of the reasons which have since then strengthened the joy within me, and not at all diminished it.

Q: Holy Father, can you tell me what you would like to transmit to the youth of the world? What is the main issue you would like to "bring about"?

Benedict XVI: Yes -- I would like to show them how beautiful it is to be Christian, because the widespread idea which continues to exist is that Christianity is composed of laws and bans which one has to keep and, hence, is something toilsome and burdensome -- that one is freer without such a burden.

I want to make clear that it not a burden to be carried by a great love and realization, but it is like having wings. It is wonderful to be a Christian with this knowledge that it gives us a great breadth, a large community. As Christians we are never alone -- in the sense that God is always with us, but also in the sense that we are always standing together in a large community, a community for The Way, that we have a project for the future -- and in this way a Being which is worth believing in.

This is the joy of being a Christian and is the beauty of believing.

Q: Holy Father, being a Pope means building bridges, to be a pontiff. The Church has an ancient wisdom and you are encountering a dynamic youth, which is not as wise. How can a bridge be built between this old wisdom -- and also an aged Pope -- and the youth? How does that work?

Benedict XVI: [laughs] Yes -- we will see in how far the Lord will help me. But in any case, wisdom in itself is not something stale -- as we in German connect the word "wisdom" with such a stale taste, but it is the understanding of the facts of the matter, it is the view of what is "essential."

Young people of course want to learn about life, they want to newly discover life, and they don't want someone to regurgitate it for them. Perhaps this is the contrast one can see here. But at the same time, wisdom is also what the "world" interprets it to be, which also is again something new as, in the new context, it leads to what matters, and how one can achieve what really matters.

In this regard I believe that speaking, believing, and living out something which has been given to humanity and has illuminated it, is not the regurgitation of something stale, but it is precisely suited to the dynamics of young people, who are also asking for the great and the whole.

That is what the wisdom of belief is about, not that we know many details -- that is important for every job -- but, that we know, above all, the details of what life is about and how being human, and the future, is to be shaped.

Q: Holy Father, you have also said, "The Church is young" -- it is nothing old. Can you describe a bit more in detail what exactly you mean by that?

Benedict XVI: Yes -- first of all we say that she is young in the biological sense, meaning that many young people belong to the Church. But she is also young in the sense that her belief comes out from the fresh font of God himself.

It is not a stale fare, which we have had for 2,000 years and which is reheated again and again; rather, God himself is the spring of all youth and of all life.

And when belief is a gift, in other words the new water which springs from him -- given to us again and again, with which we can then live and which we may, so to speak, feed strength into the ways of the world -- then the Church is a rejuvenating power.

There is one Church Father who once saw the Church and saw this strange element about it: The Church does not become older in ...

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