The Pope John Paul II Award is merely a gong with no real value unless those doing it “take seriously how the Gospel can help us understand where our society is damaging itself”, Derry’s Bishop Donal McKeown told young people at Knock Shrine on Friday.
Speaking at the National Pope John Paul II Award Pilgrimage, Dr McKeown praised the courage and initiative shown by those who do the awards, which started in Derry in 2006.
“Faith in Jesus is sometimes laughed at because it is not cool or is silly. Faith in Jesus is also criticised because it dares to ask awkward questions about who we are as human beings and how we can construct a just and more equal society,” he said.
Despite this, he said, young people should take part in the awards programme if they want to become involved with others in a prophetic journey of prayer, faith community building and hope building.
“Doing the Award is without much sense if you are unhappy with the right questions rather than happy with the wrong answers,” he said. “The world is facing many crises, fighting and mudslinging, ecological damage and challenges to human ecology. It will not be changed by just preparing to take part in the rat race.
“It will be changed by those who are not afraid to be critical and to develop alternative ways of living.”
Over 600 young people from the dioceses of Armagh, Derry, Dromore, Kilmore, Kildare & Leighlin, Limerick, Tuam and Waterford & Lismore attended along with school and parish leaders. The guest speaker at the ceremony was the #LiveLife foundation’s Elma Walsh who spoke of her late son Donal’s faith and his determination to live life to the full.