VATICAN CITY Political leaders have to urgently address the "rising sense of frustration" among young people over unemployment and the global economic situation in order to ensure peace in society, Pope Benedict said on Friday.
In the message for the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Peace, marked on January 1, the pope said young people needed hope and guidance at a time when they are struggling to find jobs and form a family.
"The year now ending has been marked by a rising sense of frustration at the crisis looming over society, the world of labour and the economy," he said.
"It is important that this unease and its underlying idealism receive due attention at every level of society."
His words come at the end of a year marked by global protests against economic inequality and corporate greed, many initiated by young people faced with rising unemployment rates and hikes to education fees.
The message is traditionally sent to world leaders, national and international institutions such as the United Nations.
It follows a Vatican document released in October which called for sweeping reforms of the world economy and the creation of an ethical, global authority to regulate financial markets.
"It seems as if a shadow has fallen over our time, preventing us from clearly seeing the light of day," the pope said.
He warned that too much focus on profit and material possessions threatened human dignity and urged a new drive for social justice to help address young people's fears.
At a news conference presenting the document, Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Vatican's Justice and Peace office, said the pope's message was applicable to events in Arab countries, where many uprisings for democracy were started by young people.
"Certainly, the challenge posed by young people to governments has been a learning experience for many African heads of state," said Turkson, who is from Ghana.
In the peace message, Benedict said young people should not be afraid of hard work and commitment to build a better future and that they could inspire older generations through efforts to overcome injustice and corruption.
"Young people, you are a precious gift for society. Do not yield to discouragement in the face of difficulties and do not abandon yourselves to false solutions which often seem the easiest way to overcome problems," he said.
(edited by Richard Meares)