The Holy Father continues to inspire. He is now in Australia for World Youth Day. For a man of his age simply to travel that distance and greet the thousands of young people is an achievement in itself. He only needs say Mass for them and encourage them and they will be satisfied and the world's press will get their photographs.
Pope Benedict does far more. As we have come to expect he has spoken words which not only encourage and inspire, but which also provide solid substance for reflection.
The headline writers are already concentrating on what he had to say about the environment, see for instance the account in the Sydney Morning Herald. But in fact what the Pope had to say was much more than sophisticated than a simple plea to save the planet. Indeed, he spoke of the "scars which mark the surface of our earth: erosion, deforestation, the squandering of the world’s mineral and ocean resources in order to fuel an insatiable consumption".
But he went on to say something even more important. While praising the modern search for freedom and the importance of tolerance, he describes as sinister "the fact that freedom and
tolerance are so often separated from truth". Life, he says, in the pursuit not of experiences, but of truth.
It is one of those insights which is at once simple, and yet so profound. As human beings we long for truth. We ask questions about existence, about suffering, about truth, about our origins, about our purposes. We consider our hopes and our aspirations, our anxieties and our yearnings. Human beings hunger and thirst for what is right and are prepared to suffer and die for it - and yet we live in a world which so often values experience - a variety of experiences, a right to enjoy experiences, to choose whatever we wish - separated from a moral context, quite distinct from any idea of truth. For Freedom and Tolerance - great values in themselves - when separated from the pursuit of truth become no more than the pursuit of experience, the right to pleasure. It is the search for truth that makes us truly human.
These are uplifting and inspiring words:
My dear friends, God’s creation is one and it is good. The concerns for non-violence, sustainable development, justice and peace, and care for our environment are of vital importance for humanity. They cannot, however, be understood apart from a profound reflection upon the innate dignity of every human life from conception to natural death: a dignity conferred by God himself and thus inviolable. Our world has grown weary of greed, exploitation and division, of the tedium of false idols and piecemeal responses, and the pain of false promises. Our hearts and minds are yearning for a vision of life where love endures, where gifts are shared, where unity is built, where freedom finds meaning in truth, and where identity is found in respectful communion. This is the work of the Holy Spirit! This is the hope held out by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is to bear witness to this reality that you were created anew at Baptism and strengthened through the gifts of the Spirit at Confirmation. Let this be the message that you bring from Sydney to the world!