Faith, not ideology, changes world, Pope tells youth

Aug. 22 ( - Faith in God, not human ideologies, will change the face of the world, Pope Benedict XVI  told 800,000 young people at a Saturday-night vigil during World Youth Day (WYD) in Cologne.

Meeting with the young people who were encamped on August 20 at Marienfeld, a park outside Cologe, the Holy Father delivered a lengthy sermon, calling attention to the theme of the 20th WYD by comparing the young peoples' pilgrimages to the journey of the Magi. The Pope switched languages several times during his homily, acknowledging the international character of the congregation by using German, English, French, Spanish, and Italian in turn.

As the WYD festivities moved toward their conclusion, the Pope observed that the participants had reached the objective of their pilgrimages, and were now in the same situation as the Magi, when they reached Bethlehem: "Outwardly, their journey was now over. They had reached their goal. But at this point a new journey began for them, an inner pilgrimage which changed their whole lives."

Extending the comparison between the three wise men of St. Matthew's Gospel and the young people now gathered in Cologne, the Pope said that both had made a long trip, prompted by their desire to help create a better world. "This hunger and thirst had spurred them on in their pilgrimage," he said.

When they met the Christ child, however, the pilgrims were confronted with something unexpected: a reality more profound than they had expected. Prepared to meet an earthly king, they found instead a helpless child. "They had to change their ideas about power, about God, and about man-- and in so doing, they also had to change themselves."

In Bethlehem, the Pope continued, the Magi found an incarnate God who rules through selfless love. "He contrasts the noisy and ostentatious power of this world with the defenseless power of love, which succumbs to death on the Cross, and dies ever anew throughout history; yet it is this same love which constitutes the new divine intervention that opposes injustice and ushers in the Kingdom of God."

Pope Benedict emphasized that the self-sacrificing love of Jesus Christ has infinite power; and those who imitate Christ faithfully have the power to change the world. Thus Christian love is a greater force for change than any human ideology. "The saints," he said, "are the true reformers."

"Now I want to express this in an even more radical way," the Pontiff continued. "Only from the saints, only from God, does true revolution come: the definitive way to change the world."

Nearing his conclusion, the Pope contrasting the transformative power of Christian love with the secular ideologies that dominated the history of the 20th century. The brutal record of those ideologies, he pointed out, demonstrate that a revolution inspired only by human ambitions "does not liberate man, but takes away his dignity and enslaves him." Christian love, on the other hand, ennobles everyone it touches.

The young people who heard the Pope's words had arrived at Marienfeld earlier in the day for the final weekend of WYD. After the Pope's homily there was a "celebration of light," in which an icon of the Virgin Mary was brought to the podium and a candle bearing a flame that had been enkindled in the Nativity grotto at Bethlehem was brought to the Pontiff.

For the first time in the history of World Youth Day, the evening vigil closed with a period of Eucharistic adoration. Pope Benedict led the crowd in kneeling silently before the Eucharist, then presided at Benediction to close the ceremony.

Throughout the vigil, the massive crowd joined in hymns of the Taize community, in homage to the founder of that ecumenical group, Brother Roger Schütz, who was killed by a deranged assailant on August 16.