By Justin McLellan, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Catholics, especially young Catholics, who feel that society is adrift should find inspiration and encouragement in their Christian calling to advocate for the poor and marginalized, Pope Francis said.

Across cultural and ideological backgrounds, modern people “sense there is something wrong with humanity and the world, that we cannot simply go on as we have been doing, that there is a need for a conversion, a new effective orientation,” the pope said in a message to German Catholics released May 29.

Pope Francis sent the message to people participating in the 103rd edition of “Katholikentag,” or “Catholic Day,” a five-day gathering in Erfurt, Germany, that brings together lay Catholics and political and religious leaders from Germany and abroad.

The meeting’s theme, “A future awaits those who seek peace,” was taken from Psalm 37.

The pope told participants that Christ indicates the new direction sought by humankind, and that through his earthly mission Jesus led people toward God and toward a “renewal and restoration of their relationship with their brothers and sisters, with creation, and not least with themselves.”

Yet to reinstate this divine relationship, “Jesus not infrequently turned the logic and order of human values upside down,” he wrote, pointing to the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ embrace of the cross.

Christians today, Pope Francis said, “are called to carry forth his mission.”

Like Jesus, “we too want to give abandoned and marginalized people a new dignity and make them feel that they are not alone,” he wrote, and that entails “involving ourselves in public (life) and in politics, so that they may have better life conditions and above all to give voice to those who are not heard.”

Today in Europe and elsewhere, he said, “fundamental human rights seem threatened” due to “rising antisemitism, racism and other ideologies that tend toward extremism and violence.”

Society’s moral, social and economic crises — concern for nature, justice for the poor, protecting the family and life, defending human dignity and seeking peace — are all interconnected, he said. Such problems “affect everyone and can only be solved together,” which requires “a need for broad dialogue, if possible, between many voices at all levels of social, economic and political life.”

To illustrate the power of Christian witness in effecting change, the pope recalled how people sparked a “peaceful revolution” by marching while holding candles to protest for their freedom in East Germany in 1989, shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall.

“The man of peace has a future,” he wrote. “This certainty is a warning and encouragement to us.”