His Excellency Archbishop Dominique Mamberti
Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States
at the panel discussion on
Empowering Youth to be Agents of Change in Eradicating Poverty
United Nations Headquarters
New York, 24 September 2012
First of all I would like to greet His Excellency Porfirio Lobo Sosa, President of Honduras, and His Eminence Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, who have honored us with their presence here today. A special word of thanks goes to Her Excellency Ms. Mary Elizabeth Flores, Permanent Representative of Honduras to the United Nations, and to His Excellency Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the same Organization, for having organized this meeting with the valuable assistance of Caritas Internationalis and the Salesians of Don Bosco, co-sponsors of the event, and, in particular, Brother Jean Paul Muller, Economer General of the Salesians of Don Bosco. I would also like to express my gratitude to His Excellency Jorge Valero Briceño, Ambassador of Venezuela, for his kind words about the remarkable contribution of the Church to the education of young people in his country, as well as H.E. Daniele Bodini, Ambassador of San Marino, for having joined us here this evening.
Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen:
Today’s topic of discussion is one which is very timely, given the many events taking place around the world. The millions of children who are now entering adolescence and adulthood are facing ever changing and growing challenges to becoming full and active participants in their communities and their countries. Confronting these challenges is an increasingly urgent need in order to ensure that young people have the tools necessary to overcome these hurdles in a responsible manner so that we can work to build a future of peace and development.
In light of these new and continued difficulties, during this year’s World Day of Peace Message, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI focused our attention on the need for families, communities, governments and the international community to unite their efforts in order to build a society in which young people are able to use their enthusiasm and idealism to bring new hope to the world.
Contemporary society’s increasing interconnectedness provides young people with the knowledge and resources to be contributors to not only their local communities but to the world as a whole. They are able to learn about the joys and struggles of other young people, wherever they may be, and to play an active role in creating greater global solidarity. In his Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI asked whether a more interconnected world can not only make us neighbors but also make us brothers and sisters. Young people represent a unique resource as a new generation of leaders who are aware of the concerns and challenges facing humanity and have a distinctive ability to contribute to the global common good.
However, if young people are to reach their potential in this regard, we must first work to ensure that they have the skills needed to do so in an effective and responsible manner. Today’s young people yearn for an education which allows them to face the challenges of the world, they strive for employment which will provide them with the opportunity and resources to leave their mark on society and to found a family, and they long for the opportunity to participate actively in the political, cultural, spiritual and economic life of their communities.
Today’s challenges thus require citizens and young people to have access to education which provides them with the ethics and morality needed to be responsible members of society. The financial crisis is a reminder that an economy without ethics or a government without morality gives way to the utilitarian and individualistic demands of society at the expense of the common good. Without an educational system which teaches not only “what is possible” but also “what is responsible,” we will continue to fail to prepare them adequately to address the issues of the day.
The empowerment of youth to be agents of change in addressing poverty starts by providing support to the family. The family is the fundamental unit of society and is the place where children first learn the values necessary for being responsible adults, such as the values of solidarity between generations and families, respect for rules, forgiveness, love and generosity. Without supporting this fundamental unit of society and without the active and primary role of parents imparting these values to young people, we deprive young people and society as a whole of a very precious gift.
Youth can also be agents of change in overcoming poverty through their hope for the future and their generous dedication towards addressing the specific needs of others. They can serve as powerful witnesses in their willingness to give of their time, talent and energy not only to help build a more just society but, especially, address the inner poverty of those who experience hopelessness or lack of meaning in their lives and end up being victims of despair, drug addiction, marginalization and social exclusion. By being open and receptive to the transcendent and not relying on technical solutions alone, young people can contribute towards the full development of those around them, so that they, in turn, can be agents of change in their own communities and societies.
As we begin this 67th Session of the General Assembly, we must be always mindful of the reality that young people are not primarily a cause of concern or source of problems but ought to be valued as protagonists who, when properly nurtured and developed, become dynamic sources of energy, intelligence and ability for our world. It is only appropriate that with us today we have the President of Caritas Internationalis and the Economer General of the Salesians of Don Bosco, as these institutions are two examples of the holistic efforts being undertaken to promote the integral development of our world’s young people. However, it is especially up to government leaders and civil society to address the obstacles which hinder young people from gaining access to all they need in order to achieve their potential. This is why, in his World Day of Peace Message for 2012 entitled “Educating Young People in Justice and Peace,” the Holy Father urged all leaders to look toward the future through investing in our young people today. He stated, “Let us look with greater hope to the future; let us encourage one another on our journey; let us work together to give our world a more humane and fraternal face; and let us feel a common responsibility towards present and future generations, especially in the task of training them to be people of peace and builders of peace.” These words are particularly apt as we begin this General Assembly session and it is my hope that we can take these words to heart and recognize that together we can all be true “builders of peace.”
Thank you all and God bless you.