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Article for CDJA Netherlands magazine - by Paolo Zanetto

Jubilee, there's something we should learn

In this very hot August, the city of Rome has been peacefully invaded by two million young people coming from more than 170 countries. They were participating to the World Youth Day, celebrated in Rome in this year of the Catholic Jubilee. The sight of the Pope John Paul II in front of this young mass was really a powerful show.

After the end of the movement started in 1968 all over the world, most of the opinion-makers say that the youth of today is not as alive as the one of yesterday, that we have no courage, no vision, no push to change the world. In their opinion, we are useless people engaged just in becoming older, without the inner light that all the young people should have.

Probably, the view of that giant young crowd gathered in Rome to meet the Pope was shocking for most of these intellectuals. In Italy the newspapers started a debate between enthusiastic and sceptical commentators about the role of the Catholic religion for the young people. This debate, dividing Catholics and laics as two opposite sides, shown a completely wrong approach.

I think we can take a big lesson from the success of the World Youth Day: the Catholic Church, as well as other Churches, is able to move the energies and the spirits of the new generations; instead, politics can't speak anymore with the young people. This is a remark that goes beyond the strict reasons of faith, because it's about the way you deal with the youth.

On this issue, the laic State should learn from the Church, because the Pope is really willing to put young people at the center of his message. When politicians speak about youth, their message is always perceived as rhetoric, because in most cases (at least in Italy) young people actually count for nothing. They keep saying that, since the youth is the future, it's important to invest on it. True, but they don't consider one important point: young people are also the present of the society.

Indeed, there's a big risk in front of us: the lack of commitment of the new generations toward the construction of a better society. All over Europe the number of young people voting in the elections is reducing, the active participation to the life of the parties is very low, and politics is not anymore something 'cool' that you should follow. These signals, however, are counter-balanced by other facts: the big involvement in the no-profit sector, the growth of volunteering, the strong feelings about specific issues (e.g. in my country the fight against illegality and mafia). I hope that those who think that today's youth has no ideas, no ideals, no passions, have seen the joyful faces of two million boys and girls in Rome.

We should consider one more point: the Catholic youth of the Jubilee is a minority into the youth world, no doubt about it. Anyway, we know that the strength of today's youth is not in the ideologies, but in the values that, no matter the confession or other discriminating points, are shared by almost everyone: liberty, friendship, solidarity, family. Most adults who want to teach something, they should learn from us a lot of things: the pleasure of being together, the responsible sense of fun, the purity of ideas, the courage to carry them on.

After the fall of the ideologies, politics has to find its way conjugating concrete issues and high vision, giving to young people the dream of a better society and the proposal of possible solutions. The first act coming from politics should be an answer to their questions about youth unemployment, an astonishing menace to the future of many families, or about education and training programs that, in this changing world of the New economy, have to be carefully reformed. The second contemporary act of politics should be to understand the values of the new generations, to learn from them, and to respect them.

Many people still don't get the dimension of the problems we are facing. Today we need to bring together different ethnical, linguistic and religious group, to make them live together under the principle of solidarity. The values shown by most of today's youth are the answer to that problem: we should be happy about that, and not just recalling the past fights among ideologies that in many cases were extreme. Give youth a chance: this is the key for building the moderate Europe of the people we are seeking.

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