By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent reporting from Budapest, Hungary
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Over 12,000 youngsters from some 100 nations have concluded Central and Eastern Europe’s first-ever ‘Genfest’, a youth summit, with a call for a more united and peaceful world.
After three days of exchanging ideas on how to realize that utopia, they prayed and listened in front of Budapest’s Saint Stephen’s Basilica, one of Hungary’s largest Roman Catholic Church buildings.
During Sunday’s open air Mass they were encouraged not to give up their hope and dreams.
The Vatican’s ambassador to Hungary, the Apostolic Nuncio Alberto Bottari de Castello reminded the over 12,000 participants from some 100 countries to this year’s Genfest theme: ‘Let’s Bridge’.
He said, “Christ is the true bridge between people and God,” and that “the Lord wants us to carry” out that message as “bridges of love towards all people.”
POPE’S BRIDGE CALL
Earlier Pope Benedict XVI said that Budapest was the perfect place to discuss that theme as Budapest’s famed bridges across the Danube river, linking the former settlements of Buda and Pest, were all destroyed in World War Two. “Yet out of the ashes of that terrible conflict, there arose a determination to build peace on lasting foundations, a determination which was to be the inspiration behind the founding of the Focolare Movement.”
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The leader of the world’s estimated one billion Catholics, added that, “The bridges across the Danube were rebuilt, and the international community set itself the goal of eliminating once and for all the conditions that might lead to future conflict.”
In his letter, addressed to Genfest’s chief organizer Maria Voce, president of the Catholic-leaning Focolare Movement, the pontiff noted that Budapest had changed, following the Cold War, in which Hungary and other Eastern European nations “suffered under the oppression of totalitarian regimes.”
“Beautiful” Budapest, he said, should be “a sign of hope , inspiring young people to offer the hand of friendship” to those from other backgrounds and cultures, “in such a way as to shape the earthly city in unity and peace, rendering it to some degree an anticipation and prefiguration of the undivided city of God”.
Hungarian cardinal Erdő Péter told youngsters Sunday, September 2, however that bridge building is only possible if “one culture does not eliminate the other”.
His remarks came after earlier this weekend thousands of youngsters gathered in Budapest’s main indoor sports arena where they watched a video tribute to the late Chiara Lubich founder of the Focolare Movement and the Genfest.
A huge screen showed how Lubich talked to the United Nations before she passed away in 2008.
“Certainly they were always be world until there is a new spirit. Because people find all kinds of excuses to start wars. We need to change the soul, we need a spiritual boost,” she told the UN delegates after being asked how to end the Middle East conflict between Israel and Palestinians.
“Nowadays there are many discoveries [and] many innovations [such as modern] communications and media. [So] technology progresses. But what has not progressed in this world is the spiritual aspects. We need a spiritual boost, a supplement of love in the world. This is much we must do,” she stressed.
During her 88-years-long life, Lubich often spoke about the next generations who would have to carry her torch.
Among them, 20-something Mexican Willie Davila who lost his own cousin in Mexico’s drugs and gang war that has killed thousands. He is now involved in peace building with other youngsters.
“It was obvious that revenge could not put things right,” he told the audience that packed the László Pap Sports Arena in Budapest. “At that time [after the killing] I realized that I had two paths that I could choose from: The first that I started to hate, [or] the second [path] to continue to love,” Davila said.
It is that message that the Genfest participants want to spread throughout the world after their gathering ends in Budapest, where they already held a massive peace rally and ‘flashmob’, a sudden meeting on and near the famous Chain Bridge to ask attention for their dreams.
The Genfest also saw the launching of the United World Network, which they called “a quite revolution”, to one day see a “international brotherhood.” Initiatives also include the “Skip a Meal’ project to raise awareness about the famine in the Horn of Africa,
At the start of the August 31-September 2 Genfest, youth and religious representatives also met government officials, including Hungary’s Foreign Minister Jànos Martonyi who stressed that though “the challenges are global”. the answers “are linked to universal values.”
He said, “We noticed the culture of suspicion and hatred at all levels. It is necessary to answer with the culture of love.”
The 10th Genfest saw young people from 104 countries with most youngsters (8,500) arriving from Europe, including 3,700 Eastern Europeans, organizers said. Others arrived from Asia (850), the Americas (1,300), the Middle East (250) and Africa (100), while “a small group” represented Oceania, according to the Genfest organization.
Two thirds were Christians from different churches, the rest had other religious and cultural backgrounds.