Pope Benedict XVI calls for 'radical evangelism' to tackle modern society’s 'amnesia' about God

Madrid, Spain - He also warned of “utilitarian” teaching and said that education was more than training for work but should lead the young to “love, reason, and faith”.

Visiting the historic monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, 30 miles northwest of Madrid, the Pontiff encouraged young nuns for dedicating their lives to the faith.

“Your lives must testify to the personal encounter with Christ which has nourished your consecration, and to all the transforming power of that encounter,” said the pope, draped in a white cassock and skull-cap.

“This is all the more important today when we see a certain 'eclipse of God’ taking place, a kind of amnesia which, albeit not an outright rejection of Christianity, is nonetheless a denial of the treasure of our faith, a denial that could lead to the loss of our deepest identity.”

The 84-year old Pontiff has made it his priority as Pope to try and reawaken Christianity in countries which have drifted far from their traditional Catholic roots.

The Vatican views Spain as a key battleground in the creeping secularism of modern society and it is the Pope’s third visit to the country since taking office in April 2005.

He chose to deliver his message to some 1,600 nuns at El Escorial, a site that was once the seat of power of King Philip II who during his reign in the mid 16-th century defended the Catholic faith from the threat of Protestantism and the Reformation across Spain’s vast empire.

Speaking later to Catholic academics at the monastery he urged the need for teachers who could go beyond the “utilitarian approach” that had become widespread.

“It seems that nowadays the mission of a university professor is exclusively that of forming competent and efficient professionals capable of satisfying the demand for labour at any time,” he said in a speech inside the Basilica.

Young people needed authentic teachers, he said, “those who, above all, are convinced of our human capacity to advance along the path of truth.”

The Pope has paraded through the streets to rapturous response from the estimated 1.5 million young Catholics flocking into the capital to take part in World Youth Day celebrations culminating with a huge open air mass on Sunday.

But on Saturday the Pontiff will divert his focus from the younger generation of Catholics and hold a private audience with Sister Teresita, a 103-year old nun cloistered at a convent outside Madrid since the very same day Joseph Ratzinger was born in Germany.

She will leave the convent at Buenafuente del Sistal, 60 miles northeast of Madrid, after 84 years within its walls to meet the Pope at the Apostolic Nunciature in Madrid on Saturday morning.