Christian Witness From 911 To London Riots

Pope Benedict is calling on young people in Madrid to become missionaries for the faith and one group of young people has already begun taking up the challenge as they make their way to World Youth Day celebrations in Spain.

Some 100 young men and women from the Manhattan, New York parish of St. Colomba are in London for a couple of days before heading on to France and then Spain, bringing the Good News to a country rattled by some of the most violent rioting and wanton violence in its recent history.

Brooklyn native Anthony Palombo says he hopes his own story of pain and conversion will inspire other young people to reject crime and violence and turn to God.

The eldest of ten children, Palombo told Vatican Radio his father was a fire fighter who died trying to help victims of the terrorist attacks on the Twin Tower’s in New York on September 11, 2001.

“When he died, it put a big question mark on my life,” he says. “I know (about) suffering; now with the rioting, this suffering and all the problems going on, they make us question, ‘how is it possible that God is there?’

“When my father died, I thought, ‘if God exists, he’s not such a nice guy.’ Since I’m the oldest of ten kids, (the death of my father) really made me question how God could allow something like that.”

“Instead, through the Church, the Neocatechumenal Way – the group we are with – I was able to see how through this event, God wanted to show me that he was my father, the father of all my brothers and sisters.”

Palombo doesn’t miss a beat when explaining that his family now has something else to worry about: their mother has been battling cancer for the past two years.

“People are shocked by this: to hear a widowed mother of ten children is struggling with cancer. But in my house, it’s incredible, because you find a joy that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.

“God wants good for us… he doesn’t abandon us…he’s there supporting us…he’s the father of my family. And we’re here to tell the people there’s an answer to the sufferings of life.”

Palombo has his own ideas about how Catholics can respond to the British government’s call for a new country-wide effort to instil a new sense of moral values in younger generations: by being credible witnesses to Christ’s mercy, honesty, love and friendship.

“When someone has a new morality in them,” he says, “and when people see how happy they are living like this, this is what announces a new morality, something new.”

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