Denver archbishop urges youths to live faith boldly, publicly
MADRID — A panel of prominent Catholics, led by Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, urged thousands of World Youth Day pilgrims to live out their faith boldly in the public square.
"Religious freedom includes the right of religious believers, leaders and communities to take part vigorously in a nation's public life," Archbishop Chaput told youths from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States during an Aug. 17 discussion at "Love and Life," the English-speaking center at the international youth gathering.
Archbishop Chaput, who will be installed as archbishop of Philadelphia in September, recalled a story that came out in March about a mob of young people who stormed the chapel of a well-known Spanish university, ridiculing the faith, insulting the pope, and inciting fear in other young students who were trying to pray there.
"People tend to think of Spain as a Catholic country," he said. "But this example of anti-Catholic bigotry happened right here, in this beautiful city, at the Complutense University of Madrid. ... So today is a good time to talk about religious freedom, and Madrid is a good place to do it."
From casting fear into Catholics in Spain to violence aimed at Christians in Egypt to life issues in the United States, Archbishop Chaput said it is up to young people to become "capable defenders" of the faith. He said Catholics should be informed by trustworthy Catholic media, because much of the secular mass media is opposed to the church and pushes a false agenda.
"Being uninformed about the world and its problems and issues is a sin against our vocation as disciples," he said.
"We can't change the direction of the world by ourselves or on our own. But that's not our job," Archbishop Chaput said. "Our job -- and especially your job as young leaders -- is to let God change us, and then through us, God will change others and the world."
Panel speaker Helen Alvare, associate professor of law at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., said she had already seen youths letting God change others and the world at Madrid's World Youth Day.
She said she conducted an informal experiment while watching secular media coverage of World Youth Day on television -- she turned down the volume and observed the joy on the faces of the pilgrims contrasted with the maligned faces of the pope-protesters. As the pilgrims spontaneously broke into song and dance, Alvare concluded that the true news about World Youth Day was written on the faces of those pilgrims.
During a discussion period after the talks, the panelists responded to the question, "How do we begin to fight secularism?"
"Instead of fighting secularism," responded Archbishop Chaput, "let's promote religious freedom."
Alvare said what she strives to do is to "bring the insight of the faith to a modern secular problem." Calling faith and reason pillars of Catholic truth, she urged using them boldly in tandem as a starting point to fight secularism.
Other panel speakers included Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who spoke on the philosophical milieu of anti-Christianity. Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt and Light Media Foundation in Toronto, spoke passionately about his city's World Youth Day experience in 2002, and Pablo Barroso, producer of the upcoming film "Cristiada," spoke about secularism and Mexico's Cristero Rebellion of the 1920s.
— Conor Gilliland, Catholic News Service
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