BY Martin Dunlop | September 24 2010 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

7-DUNKELD-@-TWICKENHAM

Future saints are among us

God wants you to be holy, Holy Father tells school pupils at the Big Assembly

Pope Benedict XVI has told almost 4000 school pupils from across the UK, including a strong contingent from Scotland, that if they choose God’s path they are ‘well on the way to becoming saints’.

On the second day of his UK visit the Pope led the Big Assembly—a celebration of Catholic education—for school pupils, at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, London.

“I hope that among those of you listening to me today there are some of the future saints of the 21st century,” the Holy Father said to the pupils gathered, which included a group of 120 children from Scotland, representing each Catholic secondary school and two pupils each from Aberdeen and Argyll and the Isles Dioceses.

“What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy,” he added.

The Big Assembly also included a live satellite link-up with St John Vianney School in Gambia and was watched by thousands more school children from across the UK.

The Holy Father was welcomed to the assembly by the Bishop of Nottingham Malcolm McMahon who spoke of the ‘great joy’ his visit ‘has brought to our hearts.’

“We celebrate the wonderful sense of faith and community that characterises our schools,” Bishop McMahon said.

“And we celebrate with you, our faith, our love, and our hope for the future.

“At the heart of Catholic education is our understanding that young people shall have life and have it to the full. That is our theme today.”

The bishop added that following the Papal visit a year of Catholic education would be celebrated in England and Wales which, as well as recognising past achievements, will ‘look forward to a future where we ensure that only the best education is delivered to our young people’.

As part of Friday’s celebrations the Pope inaugurated the John Paul II Sports Foundation, an athletics complex in the college grounds, but also spoke to the school children about the dangers of celebrity culture, in entertainment and sport, overshadowing the true happiness ‘to be found in God’.

“We live in a celebrity culture and young people are often encouraged to model themselves on figures from the world of sport or entertainment,” he said. “My question for you is this: what are the qualities you see in others that you would most like to have yourselves? What kind of person would you really like to be?”

The Holy Father also advised young Catholics that, rather than pursue wealth and fame, their search for true happiness should be focused on looking for God.

“Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places,” he said. “The key to it is very simple, true happiness is to be found in God.”

Speaking of his gratitude and ‘deep appreciation’ to the many teachers and educators who devote their lives to teaching the UK’s young Catholics, the Holy Father said: “You form new generations not only in knowledge of the faith, but in every aspect of what it means to live as mature and responsible citizens in today’s world.”

Prior to the Big Assembly the Pope spoke and prayed at a gathering of religious congregations at St Mary’s University where he told teachers and members of the religious orders that Catholic teaching must be at the heart of education.

“As you know, the task of a teacher is not simply to impart information or to provide training in skills intended to deliver some economic benefit to society; education is not and must never be considered as purely utilitarian,” the Holy Father said.

“It is about forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full—in short it is about imparting wisdom.”

He added that the presence of religious in Catholic schools is ‘a powerful reminder of the much-discussed Catholic ethos that needs to inform every aspect of school life’.

“This extends far beyond the self-evident requirement that the content of the teaching should always be in conformity with Church doctrine,” he said.

In thanking those who make ‘our schools provide a safe environment’ he went on to say: “Our responsibility towards those entrusted to us for their Christian formation demands nothing less. Indeed, the life of faith can only be effectively nurtured when the prevailing atmosphere is one of respectful and affectionate trust.”

Before and after the Big Assembly the Pope greeted the assembled young children as he traveled through the St Mary’s grounds in the Popemobile.

He said that he hoped to see many of the young students present at next summer’s World Youth Day in Madrid.

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