12TH WORLD YOUTH DAY
MESSAGE of the HOLY FATHER POPE JOHN
where are you staying? Come and see» (cf. Jn 1:38.39)
Dear Young People!
I come to you with joy to continue the dialogue, already
long, whose fabric we are weaving together on the
occasion of the World Youth Day. In communion with the
whole people of God on the journey towards the Great
Jubilee of the Year 2000, I want to invite you this year
to fix your eyes on Jesus, Teacher and Lord of life, with
the help of the words recalled in John's Gospel: «Teacher,
where are you staying? Come and see» (cf. 1:38-39).
In all the local Churches, during the coming months, you
will be meeting together to reflect, with your Pastors,
on these words of the Gospel. Then, in August 1997,
together with many of you, we will have the experience of
the XII World Youth Day, celebrated at international
level in Paris, at the heart of the continent of Europe.
In that metropolis, for centuries a crossroads for
peoples, for art and culture, the young people of France
are already preparing, enthusiastically, to welcome their
young contemporaries from every corner of the planet.
Following the Holy Year Cross, the people of the younger
generations who believe in Christ will, once again,
become a living icon of the Church in her pilgrimage
along the roads of the world. Meeting in prayer and
reflection, in the dialogue that unites beyond all
difference of language and race, in the sharing of ideals,
problems and hopes, these young people will experience
living the reality promised by Jesus: «Where two or
three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of
them» (Mt 18:20).
Youth of the
whole world, it is along the paths of daily life that you
can meet the Lord! Do you remember how the disciples,
hurrying to the banks of the Jordan to listen to the last
of the great prophets, John the Baptist, saw Jesus of
Nazareth pointed out to them as the Messiah, the Lamb of
God? Out of curiosity they decided to follow Him at a
distance. They were shy almost and embarrassed, until,
turning round, He asked them: «What do you seek?» So
began the dialogue that would give rise to the adventure
of John, Andrew, Simon «Peter» and the other apostles (cf.
In this concrete and surprising encounter, described in a
few, essential words, we find the origin of every journey
in faith. It is Jesus who takes the initiative. When we
have to do with Him, the question is always turned upside
down: from questioners, we become questioned; «searchers»,
we discover that we are «sought»; He, indeed, has
always loved us first (cf. 1Jn 4:10). This is the
fundamental dimension of the encounter: we are not
dealing with something, but with Someone, with the «Living
One». Christians are not the disciples of a system of
philosophy: they are men and women who, in faith, have
experienced the encounter with Christ (cf. 1Jn 1:1-4).
We are living in an era of great changes: the rapid
decline of ideologies that seemed to promise a long
resistance to the wear and tear of time; the tracing out
on the planet of new confines and frontiers. Humanity
often finds itself uncertain, bewildered and anxious (cf.
Mt 9:36). But the word of God knows no decline;
throughout history and among changing events, it remains
firm and gives light (cf. Mt 24:35). The faith of the
Church is founded on Jesus Christ, the one Saviour of the
world, yesterday and today and for ever (cf. Heb 13:8).
It gives Christ as reference for an answer to the
questions rising up from the human heart in face of the
mystery of life and death. Only from Christ, indeed, can
there be answers that do not deceive nor disappoint.
When my thoughts go back to your words, spoken during the
unforgettable encounters I have had the joy of
experiencing with you on my apostolic journeys to every
part of the world, I seem to read in them, with vital
urgency, the very question of the disciples: «Teacher,
where are you staying?» See that you are able to listen
again, in the silence of prayer, to Jesus' answer: «Come
people, like the first disciples, follow Jesus! Do not be
afraid to draw near to Him, to cross the threshold of his
dwelling, to speak with Him, face to face, as you talk
with a friend (cf. Ex 33:11). Do not be afraid of the «new
life» He is offering. He Himself makes it possible for
you to receive that life and practise it, with the help
of his grace and the gift of his Spirit.
It is true: Jesus is a demanding friend. He points to
lofty goals; he asks us to go out of ourselves in order
to meet Him, entrusting to Him our whole life : «Whoever
loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will
save it» (Mk 8:35). The proposal may seem difficult, and,
in some cases, frightening. But I ask you
is it better to be resigned to a life without ideals, to
a world made in our image and likeness, or rather,
generously to seek truth, goodness, justice, working for
a world that reflects the beauty of God, even at the cost
of facing the trials it may involve?
Break down the barriers of superficiality and fear!
Recognizing that you are «new» men and women,
regenerated by the grace of Baptism, talk with Jesus in
prayer and while listening to the Word; experience the
joy of reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance;
receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist;
welcome and serve Him in your brothers and sisters. You
will discover the truth about yourselves and your inner
unity, and you will find a «Thou» who gives the cure
for anxieties, for nightmares and for the unbridled
subjectivism that leaves you no peace.
«Come and see».
You will meet Jesus where men and women are suffering and
hoping: in the little villages, scattered across the
continents and seemingly on the fringe of history, as
Nazareth was when God sent his Angel to Mary; in the huge
metropolises, where millions of human beings live often
as strangers. In reality, every human being is a «fellow
citizen» of Christ.
Jesus is living next to you, in the brothers and sisters
with whom you share your daily existence. His visage is
that of the poorest, of the marginalized who, not
infrequently, are victims of an unjust model of
development, in which profit is given first place and the
human being is made a means rather than an end. Jesus'
dwelling is wherever a human person is suffering because
rights are denied, hopes betrayed, anxieties ignored.
There, in the midst of humankind, is the dwelling of
Christ, who asks you to dry every tear in his name, and
to remind whoever feels lonely that no one whose hope is
placed in Him is ever alone (cf. Mt 25:31-46).
Jesus dwells among those who call on Him without having
known Him; among those who, after beginning to know Him,
have lost Him through no fault of their own; among those
who seek Him in sincerity of heart, while coming from
different cultural and religious contexts (cf. Lumen
Gentium, 16). As disciples and friends of Jesus, become
agents of dialogue and collaboration with those who
believe in a God who rules the universe with infinite
love; be ambassadors of the Messiah you have found and
known in his «dwelling», the Church, so that many more
young people of your age may be able to follow in his
footsteps; their way lighted by your fraternal charity
and by the joy in your eyes that have contemplated Christ.
Jesus dwells among the men and women «honoured with the
name of Christian» (cf. Lumen Gentium, 15 ). All are
able to meet Him in the Scriptures, in prayer and in
service of their neighbours. On the eve of the third
millennium, it is becoming every day a more urgent duty
to repair the scandal of the division among Christians,
strengthening unity through dialogue, prayer in common
and witness. It is not a matter of ignoring differences
and problems in the detachment of a lukewarm relativism;
that would be like covering the wound without healing it,
with the risk of interrupting the journey before reaching
the goal of full communion. On the contrary, it is a
matter of working under the guidance of the Holy
Spirit with a view to effective reconciliation,
trusting in the efficacy of Jesus' prayer on the eve of
his passion : «Father, that they may be one even as we
are one» (cf. Jn 17:22). The more you cling to Jesus the
more capable you will become of being close to one
another; and insofar as you make concrete gestures of
reconciliation you will enter into the intimacy of his
Jesus dwells especially in your parishes, in the
communities in which you live, in the associations and
ecclesial movements to which you belong, as well as in
many contemporary forms of grouping and apostolate at the
service of the new evangelization. This rich variety of
charisms is a benefit for the whole Church, and an
encouragement for every believer to place his or her
capacities at the service of the one Lord, fount of
salvation for all humankind.
Jesus is «the
Word of the Father» (cf. Jn 1:1), gift to humankind, to
reveal the face of God, and to give a meaning and goal to
their uncertain steps. God who «spoke of old to our
fathers by the prophets in many and various ways, has
spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all
things, through whom also he created the world» (Heb 1:1-2).
His word is not an imposition, unhinging the doors of
conscience; it is a persuasive voice, a free gift that,
if it is to have a saving effect in each one's concrete
existence, calls for an attitude of readiness and
responsibility, a pure heart and a free mind.
In your groups, dear young people, multiply the occasions
for hearing and studying the word of the Lord, especially
through the lectio divina. You will discover the secrets
of the Heart of God and will derive profit for discerning
situations and transforming reality. Guided by Holy
Scripture, you will be able to recognize the Lord's
presence in your daily life; and even the «desert» can
then become a «garden», where it is possible for the
creature to talk familiarly with the Creator: «When I am
reading divine Scripture, God walks again in the earthly
Paradise» (St. Ambrose, Epistle 49,3).
among us in the Eucharist, the supreme fulfilment of his
real presence, a presence that is contemporary with the
history of humankind. Amidst the uncertainties and
distractions of daily life, imitate the disciples on
their way to Emmaus; like them, say to the Risen One,
revealed in the act of breaking the bread: «Stay with us,
for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent» (Lk
24:29). Call out to Jesus to remain with you always along
the many roads to Emmaus of our time. May He be your
strength, your point of reference, your enduring hope.
May the Eucharistic Bread, dear young people, never be
lacking on the tables of your existence. And may you draw
from this Bread the strength to bear witness to the faith!
Around the Eucharistic table the harmonious unity of the
Church is realized and made manifest; the mystery of
missionary communion, in which all feel that they are
children, sisters and brothers, without any exclusion or
difference from race, language, age, social situation or
culture. Dear young people, make your generous and
responsible contribution to the constant building up of
the Church as a family, a place of dialogue and mutual
acceptance, a space of peace, mercy and pardon.
the Word and strengthened by the Bread of the Eucharist,
dear young people, you are called to be credible
witnesses to the Gospel of Christ, who makes all things
But how are you to be recognized as true disciples of
Christ? By the fact that you have «love for one another»
(Jn 13:35) after the example of his love: a love that is
freely given, infinitely patient and denied to no one (cf.
1Cor 13:4-7). Fidelity to the new commandment will be the
guarantee that you are consistent with respect to what
you are proclaiming. This is the great «novelty» which
can amaze a world that, unfortunately, is still torn and
divided by violent conflicts that at times are clearly
evident, at times subtle and hidden. In this world you
are called to live fraternally, not as a utopia but as a
real possibility; in this society you are called, as true
missionaries of Christ, to build the civilization of love.
On 30 September
1997 will occur the centenary of the death of St. Thérèse
of Lisieux. Hers is a figure that, in her own country,
cannot fail to draw the attention of a great many young
pilgrims; Thérèse, precisely, is a young Saint, and her
message today is simple and suggestive, brimming over
with amazement and gratitude: God is Love; every person
is loved by God, who expects to be welcomed and loved by
each one. This is a message, young people of today, that
you are called to receive and to shout aloud to those of
your own age : «Man is loved by God! This very simple
yet profound proclamation is owed to humanity by the
Church» (cf. Christifideles Laici, 34 ).
From the youth of Theresa of the Child Jesus spring forth
her enthusiasm for the Lord, the intensity of her love,
the realistic daring of her great projects. The charm of
her holiness is confirmation that God grants in abundance,
even to the young, the treasures of his wisdom.
Walk with her the humble and simple way of Christian
maturity, at the school of the Gospel. Stay with her in
the «heart» of the Church, living radically the option
people, in the house where Jesus dwells meet the most
sweet presence of the Mother. It is in Mary's womb that
the Word was made flesh. Accepting the role assigned to
her in the plan of salvation, the Virgin became a model
for every disciple of Christ.
I entrust to Her the preparation and the celebration of
the XII World Youth Day, together with the hopes and
expectations of the young people who, with Her, are
repeating in every corner of the planet: «Behold, I am
the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according
to your word» (cf. Lk 1:38); and who are going to meet
Jesus, to stay with Him, ready then to proclaim to their
contemporaries, as did the Apostles: «We have found the
Messiah!» (Jn 1:41).
With this message I cordially greet each one of you and,
accompanying you with my prayer, I bless you.
From Castel Gandolfo, 15 August 1996, Solemnity
of the Assumption into Heaven of the Blessed Virgin Mary.