Succeeding John Paul II in the hearts of young people: the thing did not look easy. The real closeness of the Polish pope with young people, the special ties he had been able to weave with them, and his charisma, so obvious, seemed very difficult to match, especially for Benedict XVI, and his personality so different from that of his predecessor . The man is indeed discreet, self-effacing, “prefers the silence of libraries and monasteries”.
Manuella Affejee – Vatican City
Arriving behind John Paul II, “Pope of the Crowds; Pope of young people”, and initiator of WYD, therefore appeared “very complicated” for him. And yet, “from his first WYD in Cologne in 2005, observes Marie-Lucile Kubacki, journalist for the weekly La Vie, something happened between Benedict XVI and the young people”, immediately conquered by the fragile silhouette of the new pope, his shy smile, his depth and the strength of his words.
Benedict XVI is not the pope of pretenses, young people understand that instantly. “He didn’t try to seduce,” remarks Marie-Lucile Kubacki; his authenticity, his humility and his vulnerability were all the more touching for the young people.
A dive into the heart of youth culture
Youth: the permanent concern of Benedict XVI, who has never ceased, throughout his pontificate, to seek to get closer to it, to understand its expectations, fears and hopes… until using the means Communication. On December 12, 2012, Paul VI room, and to a round of applause, Benedict XVI tweeted the first 140 characters in the history of the papacy. “The theologian, the man of reflection enters the universe of immediacy”, analyzes Marie-Lucile Kubacki. The pope wants to make himself accessible, and does not hesitate, for this, to immerse himself in the very culture of young people.
But for them, Benedict XVI remains a father above all, “a figure of benevolence”. “He gave them a place in the Church,” says Kubacki, “he trusted them, and the young people felt welcomed.”
Benedict XVI, pope of inner freedom
What Marie-Lucile Kubacki will retain from Benedict XVI? “A word of joy!” she says. Benedict XVI has never ceased to urge young people threatened by despair not to let themselves be defeated. Here is the message he addressed to her, during the World Day of Peace 2011: “You are a precious gift for society. In the face of difficulties, do not allow yourself to be discouraged and do not wallow in false solutions.” (…) “Do not be afraid to commit yourself, to face effort and sacrifice, to choose paths that require fidelity and constancy, humility and dedication. Live with confidence your youth and the deep desires for happiness, truth, beauty and true love that you experience! Live intensely this phase of life which is so rich and full of enthusiasm”. ““Benedict XVI is the pope of inner freedom”, notes Marie-Lucile Kubacki, the one who encourages going against the current.
“The Benedict XVI generation”
“There was no questioning during his renunciation”, remarks Marie-Lucile Kubacki. The young people then interpreted this final sign of humility as a gesture of hope and confidence from Benedict XVI in the future of the Church. This Pope will have finally been able to restore their confidence and “re-enchant a generation”, the one called the “Generation Benedict XVI”, forever grateful.