On his first visit to the U.S., Pope Benedict told young Americans they should cherish their freedoms but also be wary of the temptations that freedom can bring, including addiction, Reuters reported April 19.
“How many young people have been offered a hand which in the name of freedom or experience has led them to addiction, to moral or intellectual confusion, to hurt, to a loss of self-respect, even to despair and so tragically and sadly to the taking of their own life?” asked Benedict during a speech at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y.
“Here, the dreams and longings that young people pursue can so easily be shattered or destroyed,” the Pope said. “I am thinking of those affected by drug and substance abuse, homelessness and poverty, racism, violence, and degradation — especially of girls and women.”
Benedict urged his audience to avoid the pitfalls of materialism and seek the truth about life. “As young Americans you are offered many opportunities for personal development, and you are brought up with a sense of generosity, service and fairness,” he said. “Yet you do not need me to tell you that there are also difficulties: activities and mindsets which stifle hope, pathways which seem to lead to happiness and fulfillment but in fact end only in confusion and fear.”
The Pope also discussed his own youth, when he was forced into the Hitler Youth and later the military in Nazi Germany. “My own years as a teenager were marred by a sinister regime that thought it had all the answers; its influence grew — infiltrating schools and civic bodies, as well as politics and even religion — before it was fully recognized for the monster it was. It banished God and thus became impervious to anything true and good,” he said.