‘Give a sign of hope,’ Williams urges Christian youth

About 40,000 young Christians gathered in Rome for Taizé's European meeting, described as one of the largest ecumenical gatherings in the world. Photo: Taizé Community
About 40,000 young Christians gathered in Rome for Taizé's European meeting, described as one of the largest ecumenical gatherings in the world. Photo: Taizé Community
Published January 10, 2013

Archbishop Rowan Williams has expressed the hope that young Christians will, through prayers and meditation, deepen their reliance on God’s trust and enable them to “take the risks of trusting others” to join them in “the work of God’s kingdom.”

Williams, who retired as Archbishop of Canterbury last Dec. 31, sent the message to an estimated 40,000 Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox youth who took part in the European meeting of the Taizé community held in Rome Dec. 28 to Jan. 2.  Located in a village in Burgundy, France, Taizé is an ecumenical monastic order that attracts many young people around the world, drawn by its meditative and reflective practice focusing on peace, love and reconciliation.

“…Small acts of trustfulness can make a great difference,” said Williams, as he paid tribute to the “Student Volunteer Army,” a group of young people who helped clear the rubble and provide emergency care at the city centre of Christchurch, New Zealand, when it was hit by a devastating earthquake in 2011.

These young people had simply responded to tweets and text messages sent by a student, Sam Johnson. It was “a simple act of practical service brought into effect without fuss and with the minimum of institutional structure: a lesson in what we can achieve with our technological resources when our vision is clear,” noted Williams.

Johnson had also acted in trust, said Williams. “He believed that if a call went out, people would answer it, because he was convinced that when people are asked in the simplest terms whether they do or don’t want to make the world a more humane and compassionate place, most will say that they do.” [Williams met Johnson last fall, during the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in New Zealand.]

Williams encouraged the participants to reflect on the Christchurch experience and perhaps take the initiative of inviting others to service, “to send out a word of invitation, perhaps on the electronic waves to say, ‘Come and work alongside us – the world needs us to give a sign of hope.”

Pope Benedict XVI also sent a message, urging young people to be steadfast. “Sometimes the evil and suffering of the innocent create doubt and confusion in  you. And saying yes to Christ can become difficult,” said the Pope. “But these doubts do not make you non-believers! Jesus did not reject the man in the Gospel who shouted: I do believe, help my unbelief!”

The Pope also encouraged the participants to become the bearers of the message of Christian unity. He extolled the value of ecumenism, which he said had been championed by Brother Roger, founder of the Taizé community, who was murdered in 2005.

“A tireless witness to the Gospel of peace and reconciliation, ardently committed to an ecumenism of holiness, Brother Roger encouraged all those who passed through Taizé to become seekers of communion,” he said. “We should listen in our hearts to his spiritually lived ecumenism, and let ourselves be guided by his witness towards an ecumenism which is truly interiorized and spiritualized.”

At their meeting, participants took part in prayers “in song and in silence” in Rome’s great basilicas; they also met with religious leaders, including Pope Benedict, and went on pilgrimages to the tombs of the Apostles, among others.


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