Pope Benedict XVI addressed pilgrims to Rome on Sunday, saying that a lack of belief in Jesus’ resurrection had turned many young people to a form of “unwitting nihilism,” as death without hope for eternal life leads to despair.
“If we remove God, if we take away Christ, the world will fall back into the void and darkness,” the pope said during the weekly devotion in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday. “And this is also reflected in the expressions of contemporary nihilism, an often subconscious nihilism that unfortunately plagues many young people,” Catholic News Agency quoted him as saying.
The 84-year-old pope, who views denial of objective truth as the main problem of the 21st century, highlighted the influence of the Christian message in the ancient world where “the religion of the Greeks, the cults and pagan myths were not able to shed light on the mystery of death.” Ancient inscriptions read, “In nihil ab nihilo quam cito recidimus,” meaning “How quickly we fall back from nothing to nothing,” he noted.
It is against this backdrop, he said, that St. Paul wrote to Ephesian Christians, saying they were once “without hope and without God in the world” but they were no longer “like the rest, who have no hope.”
The pope underlined that “faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ” was “a decisive watershed.” It is “the net difference between those who believe and those who don’t believe, or one could equally say, between those who hope and those who do not.”
He referred to the parable of the 10 maidens who were invited to a wedding, as found in the Gospel of Matthew. He said it depicted the attainment of eternal life with Christ. According to St. Augustine, the maiden’s oil was “a symbol of love, which you cannot buy, but is received as a gift, conserved within ourselves, and practiced in our deeds,” he explained, pointing to the five wise ones who were prepared with oil in their lamps upon the groom’s arrival.
Our Last Judgment will likely be “based on the love we practiced in our earthly life,” he said, encouraging the pilgrims to use their mortal lives to carry out works of mercy.
The pope has called for a return to fundamental Christian values to fight the secularization in the developed world.