Pope Francis greets a girl during an audience with members of the Italian Donation Institute at the Vatican Oct. 2. The institute promotes volunteering and giving to charities. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Everyone, but especially young people, should have the “wonderful experience of giving” of their time and resources; giving open hearts and minds to brotherhood and sharing and is essential for building “the civilization of love,” Pope Francis said.

Endorsing the celebration in Italy of “Giving Day,” which takes place Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis said all Christians should experience how giving a gift freely to others does not mean losing it, but “increasing its value.”

“Giving makes us and others happier,” he said. “Giving creates bonds and relationships that strengthen hope for a better world.”

Pope Francis met Oct. 2 at the Vatican with young people and members of the Italian Donation Institute, which promotes volunteering with and giving to charities, as well as working to ensure responsibility and transparency in the way funds are used.

Christians in particular should promote a culture of giving and serving others, he said. In imitation of Jesus, Christians should be capable of a love “that refuses every form of violence, respects freedom, promotes dignity and rejects all discrimination.”

Pope Francis encouraged his audience to be “defenders of life, protectors of creation and witnesses of love given, which generates fruits of goodness for all.”

In fact, he said, “the greatest gift God gave each of us is life, and life is part of another original divine gift: creation. We must all feel great responsibility to adequately safeguard creation and care for it,” ensuring that future generations also will be able to see the natural environment as a gift of God.

“The gift of life and the gift of creation come from God’s love for humanity,” he said. “And to the extent that we open ourselves and welcome” God’s love, “we can become gifts of love for our brothers and sisters.”