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Benedict XVI: I felt ‘hemmed in’ growing up under Nazism

Pope Benedict XVI walks through the gate of Auschwitz in 2006 (Photo: AP)

Pope Benedict XVI has said in his message for World Youth Day 2011 that he felt “hemmed in” growing up in Germany under the Nazis and wished to “break out into the open”.

The Pope said: “During the Nazi dictatorship and the war, we were, so to speak, ‘hemmed in’ by the dominant power structure. So we wanted to break out into the open, to experience the whole range of human possibilities.”

But he also spoke of the “deepest aspirations” of young people, saying that “in thinking of my own youth, I realise that stability and security are not the questions that most occupy the minds of young people … the years of our youth are also a time when we are seeking to get the most out of life.

“Men and women were created for something great, for infinity. Nothing else will ever be enough,” he said.

The Holy Father also used the message to encourage young people to go to World Youth Day, saying that he “would like all young people … to share this experience, which can prove decisive for their lives. It is an experience of the Lord Jesus, risen and alive, and of his love for each of us.”

He added that “Europe greatly needs to rediscover its Christian roots”, saying: “There is a strong current of secularist thought that aims to make God marginal in the lives of people and society, by proposing and attempting to create a ‘paradise’ without him.

“Yet experience tells us that a world without God becomes a ‘hell’: filled with selfishness, broken families, hatred between individuals and nations, and a great deficit of love, joy and hope,” the Pope said.

World Youth Day 2011 will take place in Madrid. The theme is taken from Colossians: “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith.”