Speeches 1997

Since the Second Vatican Council, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Catholic Church have engaged in two phases of international dialogue aimed at resolving the doctrinal differences which still prevent us from achieving the visible unity to which Christ calls his disciples. Other significant contacts also have helped to increase understanding between us. The Catholic Church is committed to continuing this theological dialogue so that we can extend the convergences already found, and face those issues still to be resolved, so that together we may honour the Lord Jesus Christ, the one Mediator between God and humanity (cf. 1Tm 2,5).

I have had occasion in recent years to visit countries in Central and Eastern Europe where centuries ago Catholics and Reformed Christians often clashed with one another. I remember well my visit to Debrecen in 1991. There I took part in an ecumenical service in the Reformed church, and afterwards visited the monument dedicated to Protestant victims of the religious wars who are commemorated there. It was a reminder that Catholics and Reformed must continue to seek a healing of memories as part of their common pilgrimage towards unity. All Christian communities have martyrs for the faith (cf. Ut Unum Sint UUS 83), and often the tragedy behind this is that the evangelical charity which ought to have inspired everyone was not strong enough to ensure even respect for one another.

Your General Council meets just a few years before the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, when Christians will commemorate the Incarnation of the Son of God, our only light and hope. I pray that we shall approach this Anniversary in a spirit of genuine gratitude that in these recent years, through God's grace, we have begun to heal the divisions of the past. May the Lord help us to continue to respond together to the challenge posed by his prayer for his disciples: "that they may all be one . . . so that the world may believe" (Jn 17,21).

With these sentiments I ask God's blessings upon your Assembly: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rm 1,7).

From the Vatican, 30 July 1997


August 1997





2 August 1997

To my Venerable Brother Bishop Arrigo Miglio of Iglesias, Italy

General Chaplain of the AGESCI

1. The "National Route of the Leadership Communities" of this association is about to take place; it will reach its climax in the great "camp" at Piani di Verteglia, in the province of Avellino, where about 12,000 Italian scoutmasters will meet to reflect on the theme "Ways and thoughts for the future".

I sincerely thank you and those in charge of the AGESCI for inviting me to this important gathering which takes my mind back to the joyful meeting I had with the "rovers" and the "sentries" who were taking part in the National Route at Piani di Pezza on 9 August 1986. Recalling those moments of great youthful enthusiasm and fervent Gospel witness, and unfortunately not being able to come in person this time, I would like to send a special Message for the occasion to you and to all those taking part.

2. Dear scoutmasters of the AGESCI, I greet you with words you know well and which we have exchanged on many occasions when I have met you during my visits to the parishes of Rome and to the Italian Dioceses: Have a good journey!

I thank the Lord for the scout route you have taken and for the commitment and perseverance that you show today as teachers: you are valuable collaborators for the Church and for all of Italian society in the educational mission to the children and young people entrusted to you.

The National Route you are undertaking has seen you as "pilgrims" through the country's regions, like a chain linked together in a common commitment of solidarity to the younger generations. Now it sees you gathered together in a "city" of tents, an effective image of the condition of believers on their way to "the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (He 11,10). For each of you and for your whole association, this is an extraordinary opportunity of encouragement and examination for an ever better determination of the distinctive elements of your presence and commitment in the Church and in society, for directing your path and that of the young people entrusted to you towards horizons of hope and renewed trust in the beauty of life and service, for helping each other to overcome the difficulties you meet as teachers, by drawing on the rich, long tradition of Catholic scouting you have inherited.

3. You began your journey after listening to the many "calls" that come to you from various directions: from children and their families, from young people, from society, from the particular Churches. You are aware of all these challenges in carrying out your educational service, which first demands of you a journey of spiritual and human growth in order to be credible witnesses to the values you propose. We are all quite convinced that — as my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, said — the world today has greater need of witnesses than of teachers (cf. Evangelii nuntiandi EN 41): therefore on your Route you turned your gaze first of all to the one Teacher, Jesus Christ, by daily listening to his Word and searching for the reflection of his face in those who live his teaching faithfully and are therefore worthy to be called teachers: men and women whom the Lord has us meet as witnesses along our way. "Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses", keep "looking" to him, Jesus, the Teacher, so as not to grow weary or faint-hearted (cf. Heb He 12,1-3), but to learn from him to recognize the true teachers from the false, the teachers of life from the teachers of death.

As teacher, a scoutmaster must constantly know how to discern, to be vigilant. "Estote parati" is your motto. Like a sentry, you must know how to scan the horizon to discern in time the ever new frontiers towards which the Spirit of the Lord calls you. What example of a man and woman, of a married couple and family, is a teacher called to present? In concrete terms, what does it mean to commit oneself concretely to a world of greater justice and solidarity? How can one succeed in living harmoniously in a complex and diversified society, and not lose the Gospel capacity to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world?

You are more and more frequently approached by children and young people who come from families and backgrounds that are far from the Christian life, or who belong to other religious faiths, but are attracted by the beauty and wisdom of the scout method, open as it is to love for nature and human values, imbued with piety and faith in God, successful in teaching responsibility and freedom. This is an important challenge, which asks you to reconcile the clarity and completeness of presenting the Gospel life with the capacity for a dialogue that respects the diversity of cultures and personal experiences which are interwoven in Italy today.

4. You can face these challenges with confidence and meet them, by starting precisely from the experience of the Catholic scouting tradition of the two associations that preceded you, ASCI and AGI and what your Association, AGESCI, has been pursuing for over 20 years. The encounter of scouting with the Catholic faith did not relegate to the background, but enhanced and stressed even more the beauty and importance of the human values that characterize its educational method, rich in harmony and points of contact with Gospel values and the foundations of an anthropology that respects the plan of God the Creator and the dignity and basic rights of the human person.

Dear scoutmasters of AGESCI, let yourselves be guided by him who is the only true Teacher, a loving and demanding Teacher. Do not be afraid to present all his teaching, difficult but never disappointing, just as you should never be afraid to ask your young people to face difficult tasks, those that make it possible to reach the mountain peaks and to discover the springs of joy and the meaning of life.

Your founder, Baden Powell, loved to point out the two great books that you must always know how to read: the book of nature and the book of the Word of God, the Bible. This is reliable and fruitful advice. By loving nature, living in it and respecting it, you learn to join your voice to the thousand voices of the woods that praise the Lord; immersed in nature, you continue to celebrate your moments of prayer and your liturgies, which will linger in the hearts of the young as unforgettable experiences. By cultivating your tradition of love and study of the Bible, you will always find new paths and ways for an original and effective catechesis, as part of the Italian Church's catechesis and marked by the wealth of symbols and occasions that are valuable to scouting, according to the particular guidelines of your "Unified Plan of Catechesis" and the "Path of Faith", aids that you have taken care to prepare during these years for the formation of your young people, for which you, scoutmasters, are jointly responsible.

5. Dear heads of the AGESCI, I would sincerely have liked to be among you, in the marvellous natural surroundings of Piani di Verteglia, but circumstances have prevented me. I hope to meet some of you in Paris for the World Youth Day, where the scouts can share with so many others the "paths and thoughts for tomorrow", a tomorrow of hope and peace, in the new millennium which will also see you and the young people entrusted to you play a leading role.

May you always be accompanied by Mary, Our Lady of the Scouts, who fully believed in the Word of God and willingly set out to offer her service.

Dear Brother, to you and to all the priests involved in the AGESCI, and to all you scoutmasters and to your young people, I affectionately send a special Apostolic Blessing.





Wednesday, 6 August 1997

Today is the anniversary of the death of my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, who died on the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, 6 August 1978.

"The glory of the Father shines on his face" (response to the responsorial psalm). Today’s liturgy invites us to contemplate Christ in the event of his glorious Transfiguration, so that by listening to his word we may inherit immortal life. The unforgettable Pontiff was totally dedicated to the Gospel cause. He loved Christ with all his strength and lived for the Church, which was engaged in the difficult work of the Council. He offered everything to God, especially in his last years marked by great suffering, so that she might be renewed by the power of the Spirit: "I can say that I have always loved her [the Church]", he wrote in view of his imminent death, "and I believe I have lived for her and for nothing else. But I would like the Church to know it; and that I had the strength to tell her so, as a secret which only at the very end of life one has the courage to reveal" (Pensiero alla morte).

Today we receive this personal message with grateful veneration. May the memory of this Pontiff spur each of us to ever more generous service to the Church and to the Gospel, which today she continues to proclaim in faithful fulfilment of Christ’s command.





Wednesday, 6 August 1997

Today my thoughts turn first of all to my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, on the 19th anniversary of his holy death at Castel Gandolfo on 6 August 1978, the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

We remember him with affection and unfailing admiration, considering how providential was the pastoral mission he carried out during the celebration of the Second Vatican Council and the years of its first implementation. All his life he was totally dedicated to the service of the Church, which he loved with all his strength and for which he laboured ceaselessly until the end of his earthly existence.

This morning, as I celebrated Mass for him in the chapel of the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, I asked the Lord that the example of such a faithful servant of Christ and of the Church might be an encouragement and an inspiration for us all, called by divine Providence to witness to the Gospel on the threshold of the new millennium.

May Mary, Mother of the Church, of whom we shall continue to speak in today’s catechesis, intercede for us.



13 May 1997

To my beloved Brother Luigi Rottini

Abbot President of the
Italian Congregation of the Cisterician Order

The Cistercian Congregation of St Bernard in Italy is joyfully preparing to commemorate the fifth centenary of its foundation on 23 December 1497, when Pope Alexander VI, with the Apostolic Constitution Plantatus in agro dominico, definitively approved its beginning. Recalling the union of the two Cistercian provinces of Tuscany and Lombardy in the new congregation gives us the opportunity to praise God for the divine favours granted to the Cistercian Order in the past 500 years. It is also an appropriate occasion for encouraging the monks to continue with renewed commitment on the path marked out by their founders, St Robert of Molesme, St Alberic and St Stephen Harding, in fidelity to the Rule of St Benedict passed down to them by the great Abbot Bernard.

The Italian Congregation of the Cistercian Order is celebrating this joyful anniversary as mankind prepares to cross the threshold of the third millennium. God entered into time through the Incarnation of his only-begotten Son, and it is precisely to Christ that this first year of the triennium of preparation for the Jubilee of the Year 2000 is dedicated. St Bernard gave great importance to the person of Christ, stressing his total "kenosis" in the mystery of the Incarnation. The eternal Word of God came among us, made himself obedient even unto death and guides us to the fullness of eternal life on the path of humble and constant obedience to the Father’s will. Believers, and in particular those who are called by divine Providence to a special mission in the Church and in the world through the consecrated life, seek to be faithful to his example. As for Cistercian monks, it is precisely through their humility and obedience that even in times of trial they have preserved the unity of the congregation over the centuries, to the great benefit of its individual members.

On this happy occasion I am therefore pleased to extend my good wishes to you, Venerable Brother, and to the whole monastic congregation, in special remembrance of the warm welcome you gave me during my Pastoral Visit to the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem on 25 March 1979.

May the Jubilee you are preparing to celebrate be an invitation to discover ever more deeply your special charism. During the five centuries of its life, the congregation has experienced how divine Providence has guided the monks in an authentic spiritual life, or as St Gregory said of St Benedict of Nursia, to "live with themselves", diligently attending to their own purification in penitential ascesis.

Under the impulse of the Benedictine concept of life, many monks faithful to the opus Dei, without "preferring anything to the love of Christ" (Rule of St Benedict, chapter 4, 21), have spent holy lives in seeking God, sustained by the belief that time given to him is never wasted.

My cordial wish is that you will continue with renewed fervour and zeal on this high road, tested by centuries of spiritual fruitfulness, without ever letting discouragement or weariness sap the enthusiasm of your commitment to the Gospel.

May the Virgin Mary, to whom St Bernard turned with the most ardent love, singing her praises with the greatest fervour, help you and guide your steps. May she obtain from her Son a new outpouring of heavenly gifts on your monastic family so that the Congregation of St Bernard in Italy may be an oasis of evangelization for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

With these wishes, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, Venerable Brother, to the entire monastic community and to those under the pastoral care of the Cistercian monks.






(AUGUST 21-24, 1997)



Palais de l'Élysée

Thursday, 21 August 1997

Mr. President of the Republic,

1. Your welcome and your words have touched me deeply. I now have the joy of returning to France again on the occasion of the Twelfth World Youth Day. I am particularly grateful for the mark of attention which you are showing me; and I am touched by the presence of numerous personalities who have wished to take part in this ceremony.

It was only natural that one day young Catholics, representing their peers from more than one hundred and thirty countries of the world, would wish to come together in Paris. With them, I thank you, Mr. President, as well as the authorities and officials of the State, for the reception given them. Whether they be from neighbouring European nations or from countries in other continents, they are all happy to be welcomed by French people of all ages and to discover the value of your spiritual and cultural traditions; they will be better able to appreciate the importance of these traditions for history and for the Church, while perceiving the influence they still have today.

2. In addressing you, Mr. President, in these first hours of my stay, I wish cordially to greet all the people of France, wishing them prosperity and expressing the hope that they will continue to place their talents and ideals at the service of their brothers and sisters in their own country and on every continent.

Numerous young people from around the world have been welcomed these past days all over France, and they are now gathered here in Paris. I wish to convey here all the gratitude of the Church for the generous hospitality given to these visitors in all the various regions and now in Île-de-France. And I thank the Parisians and franciliens in a particular way who, not without certain inconveniences, are helping their guests to live these days in the best possible conditions.

3. In such a special circumstance, I am pleased to meet the French faithful one more time, recalling the warm welcome which they have given me on more than one occasion already, most notably last September. With the World Youth Day, two events mark this year in a particular way for French Catholics: I am thinking of the centennial of the death of Saint Theresa of Lisieux, a great spiritual figure known and loved throughout the world, whom the youth of all countries have rightly celebrated: and secondly, tomorrow, I will have the joy of proclaiming blessed Frédéric Ozanam, an apostle of that charity which is respectful of the human person, and a clearsighted analyst of social problems. These two different personalities are, among so many others, witnesses of the fruitful contribution of French Catholics to the universal Church.

4. My coming to Paris marks a new step in a kind of grand journey which I have made with young people across the world in the past twelve years, in an ever renewed exchange with them. They come together to strengthen their will to build a new and more hospitable world and a more peaceful future. Many of them, in their regions and in their countries, experience sufferings generated by fratricidal conflicts and disregard for the human person; too often they face uncertainty with regard to employment, and even extreme poverty. Their generation is involved in a difficult search not only for a minimum of material necessities, but also for reasons for living and goals that will motivate their generosity. They realize that they will only find happiness if they are well integrated into a society which respects human dignity and in which brotherhood is a reality. Here they have a privileged occasion to share with one another their aspirations and to convey to one another the richness of their cultures and their experiences.

Their search springs interiorly from a query of a spiritual nature that has led them to take up their pilgrim staff, like their forerunners who crossed continents as peacemakers, as brothers of all men and as seekers of God.

5. Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for having understood the importance of this vast gathering of hope in your magnificent capital. I am convinced that the efforts made to welcome this great variety of guests will produce lasting fruits for them as well as for your own fellow-citizens.

While again expressing my personal gratitude, I wholeheartedly invoke upon you and the French people an abundance of divine blessings.





(AUGUST 21-24, 1997)


Champ de Mars

Thursday, 21 August 1997

Young People from throughout the world,

The Bishop of Rome greets you and he expresses his confidence in you and his joy at meeting you. You come from many different countries and from all continents. You represent not only young people from France and Europe, but also from North, Central and South America, the Archipelagos and the Islands of the Atlantic Ocean, young people from many African countries, the Islands of the Indian Ocean, young people from Asia, Australia, the Far East and all the seas encircling the continent of Asia, young people from the Pacific. This is a truly a "World" Youth Day . You are the hope of the world, you who aspire to an ever more beautiful life, based on the moral and spiritual values which make us free and guide our steps towards eternity.

You are continuing the history of the World Youth Day. It is worth recalling that history. The first World Youth Day was held in Rome in 1984. The next took place in Buenos Aires (1987). We then gathered in Santiago de Compostela, Spain (1989) and, in 1991, in Czestochowa, Poland. That Day was truly unique, since it was the first time that young people from the former Soviet Union were able to take part: young people from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, representatives from Kazakhstan and other republics of Central Asia, and Christians from the Caucasus. The international dimension of the Youth Day then took on new breadth. In 1993 we met in Denver, in the United States. Then, in 1995, in Manila in the Philippines; this was the largest meeting ever, thanks to the nearness of great metropolitan centres. We are now gathered in Paris. I offer heartfelt thanks to Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, to Bishop Michel Dubost and to the organizers of this meeting, especially the young people of the different Dioceses of France who have been preparing for the arrival of their companions. I thank Archbishop Louis- Marie Billé, President of the French Episcopal Conference, for his words of welcome and the French Bishops for offering the hospitality of their dioceses to guests from around the world.

I extend respectful greetings to the distinguished representatives of the Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities, as well as to those of the Jewish and Muslim communities: I thank them heartily for having wished to join this festive assembly of Catholic youth.

I also thank the young Filipino and French delegates who now invite you to form the great chain of faith, solidarity, friendship and peace between the countries of the whole world.

You are following in the footsteps of the young people who, carrying olive branches, came forth to meet Christ as he entered Jerusalem. Today, young people from every continent, you acknowledge Christ who unites us in joyful fellowship and in firm solidarity, and you march together towards the happiness which he offers us. You have chosen the rainbow as the sign of your diverse origins and cultures; in this way you express your thanksgiving for God's covenants with creation up to the definitive covenant sealed by the blood of the Saviour.

A roll call of the nations represented at World Youth Day was then read. Afterwards the Holy Father continued in French.

After welcoming the representatives of the different countries, I now cordially greet the delegations of the international movements, associations and communities.

The Pope then greeted those present in their various languages. To the English-speaking young people he said:

A special greeting to the English-speaking young people from all over the world. The Pope is delighted to meet so many of you here in Paris, at the World Youth Day.

Christ has brought us together. He is the subject of our reflections during these days; he is at the centre of our prayer. He is the source of the spiritual bond which unites us in his Church, a bond which, perhaps, we feel more intensely as we look around and see so many young people whose hearts are beating with the message of the Gospel of hope, the Gospel of life. "‘Teacher, where are you staying?’. He said to them, ‘Come and see’ ... and they stayed with him" (Jn 1,38-39). This is the challenge which the World Youth Day offers to the young people of Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. May this great event help you to know Jesus better and love him more. Then you will be his apostles to the world at the dawn of the approaching millennium. God bless you all!

After offering greetings in Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, Polish, Russian, Romanian, Hungarian, Arabic, Tagalog, Swahili and Chinese, the Holy Father again spoke in French.

Dear young people, Christ is our hope; Christ is our joy. In the days to come, open your hearts and minds to Christ. You are part of the Church, which wishes to open up to you the way of salvation and the path to happiness. I invite you to let yourselves be guided by the Lord and to make this journey together with him. In the course of this week, may each day be filled with grace and peace.

A handicapped youth then read the passage of St John’s Gospel recounting the washing of the feet (Jn 13,1-15). Afterwards Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, Archbishop of Paris, greeted the Holy Father and thanked him for offering the young people a meditation on this Gospel passage, assuring him that in all their prayer vigils they would reflect on the words he entrusted to them. The Holy Father then led the young people in the Lord’s Prayer and imparted his Blessing. Before taking his leave the Pope said in French:

We now know why the engineer Eiffel built this tower — to have a great youth gathering here around the tower: the World Youth Day which we have just opened and which will continue tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, until Sunday. Now goodbye; see you later. One suggestion for this evening: sleep well!





(AUGUST 21-24, 1997)



Champ de Mars

Thursday, 21 August 1997

Dear Young People,

1. We have just heard the Gospel of the washing of the feet. By this gesture of love on the evening of Holy Thursday, the Lord helps us to understand the meaning of his Passion and Resurrection. The time which we are going to spend together will focus on Holy Week and, in particular, on the three days which bring us back to the mystery of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. Holy Week is also connected to the journey of Christian initiation and the catechumenate, that is to say, to the preparation of adults for Baptism, a preparation which in the ancient Church was of fundamental importance. The liturgy during Lent points out the stages of the preparation of catechumens for Baptism, celebrated at the Easter Vigil. During the next few days we will accompany Christ on the last stages of his earthly life and will contemplate the great aspects of the paschal mystery in order to affirm our baptismal faith. We will show forth all our love for the Lord, as Peter did when he said three times on the lakeshore, after the Resurrection: "You know that I love you" (cf. Jn Jn 21,4-23).

On Holy Thursday, by instituting the Eucharist and the priesthood, as well as by the washing of the feet, Jesus clearly indicated the meaning of his Passion and Death to the assembled Apostles. He also introduced them to the mystery of the new Passover and the Resurrection. On the day of his condemnation and Crucifixion, out of love for humanity, he made a gift of his life to the Father for the salvation of the world. On Easter morning the holy women, and then Peter and John, found the tomb empty. The risen Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the disciples of Emmaus and to the Apostles. Death did not have the last say. Jesus rose victorious from the tomb. After having withdrawn to the Upper Room, the Apostles received the Holy Spirit, who gave them the strength to be missionaries of the Good News.

2. The washing of the feet, a display of perfect love, is the distinguishing mark of disciples. "You also should do as I have done to you" (Jn 13,15). Jesus, Master and Lord, rises from his place at table to take on the role of a servant. He switches roles, showing the radical novelty of the Christian life. He humbly demonstrates that to love in word and deed consists above all in serving one’s brothers and sisters. Whoever does not accept this cannot be a disciple. Conversely, whoever serves receives the promise of eternal salvation.

From the day of our Baptism we are reborn to new life. Christian living demands that we advance along the path of love. The law of Christ is the law of love. Transforming the world in the manner of leaven, this law disarms the violent and gives place to the weak and the little ones, who are called to proclaim the Gospel. By virtue of the Spirit which they receive, Christ’s disciples are enabled to place themselves at the service of their brothers and sisters, in the Church, in the family, in their professional life, in numerous associations and in public life at the national and international levels. This pursuit is a kind of continuation of Baptism and Confirmation. Service is the way to happiness and holiness: our lives then become a journey of love towards God and towards our brothers and sisters.

In washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus anticipates the humiliation of his death on the Cross, by which he will give himself in absolute service to the world. He shows that his triumph and his glory pass through sacrifice and service: this is likewise the path of every Christian. There is no greater love than that of giving one’s life freely for one’s friends (cf. Jn Jn 15,13), for love saves the world, builds up society and is our preparation for eternity. In this way you will be prophets of a new world. May love and service be the first rules of your lives! By sacrificing yourselves you will discover what you yourselves have received and you will receive in turn the gift of God.

3. Dear young people, inasmuch as you are members of the Church, your task is to continue the Lord’s gesture: the washing of the feet foreshadows every act of love and mercy which Christ’s disciples will perform throughout history in order to increase communion among people. Today, you are being called to commit yourselves in this way: accepting to follow Christ, you proclaim that the way of perfect love passes through the total and constant gift of oneself. Wherever people are suffering, wherever they are humiliated by poverty or injustice, and wherever a mockery is made of their rights, make it your task to serve them. The Church invites all her children to work so that everyone can live a worthwhile life and have their inherent dignity as children of God recognized. When we serve our brothers and sisters, we are not drawing away from God but, quite the contrary, we meet him on our journey and we serve him. "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25,40). In this way we give glory to the Lord, our Creator and Saviour, we contribute to the growth of the kingdom of God in the world and we advance the progress of humanity.

As a reminder of this essential mission of Christians towards all people, especially towards the poorest, I wished at the very beginning of this World Youth Day to stop in prayer at the Trocadéro, in the area dedicated to human rights. Today, we pray together especially for the young people who have neither the possibility nor the means to live decently and to receive the education required for their human and spiritual growth, because of poverty, war or disease. May they know of the Church s affection and support!

4. Those who love are not calculating, they do not seek their own gain. They work quietly and without charge for their brothers and sisters, knowing that every person, whoever he or she may be, has infinite value. In Christ no one is inferior and no one is superior. All are members of the same body, seeking one another’s happiness and wishing to build a world which embraces everyone. By gestures of concern and by our active participation in social life we bear witness before our neighbour that we want to help him to become himself and to give the best of himself, for his own personal good and for the good of the entire human community. Brotherhood rejects the desire for power, and service the temptation of power.

Dear young people, you have in yourselves the extraordinary capacity of being gift, of giving love and of showing solidarity. The Lord wishes to strengthen this immense generosity which animates your hearts. I invite you to come and draw from the spring of life which is Christ, in order to discover each day ways of serving your brothers and sisters in the midst of the society in which you must assume your responsibilities as men and women and as believers. In the social, scientific and technical fields, humanity needs you. Take care never to cease perfecting your professional skills, so that you can carry out your tasks with competence, and at the same time do not neglect to deepen your faith, which will enlighten every decision which you will make in your personal lives and in your work for the good of your brothers and sisters. Even as you hope to be recognized for your professional abilities, how can you not also wish to grow in your inner life, which is the source of all human dynamism?

5. Love and service give meaning to our lives and make them beautiful, because we know for what reason and for whom we are committed. It is in the name of Christ who loved us and served us first. Is there anything greater than knowing that we are loved? How can we fail to respond joyfully as we wait for the Lord? Love is the witness par excellence which leads to hope. Service of others transfigures life; it shows that hope and living in fraternal union are stronger than any temptation to despair. Love can triumph in every circumstance.

Unsettled by Jesus’ humble gesture, Peter says to him: "Lord do you wash my feet? ... You shall never wash my feet" (Jn 13,6). As with him, it takes us time to understand the mystery of salvation and we sometimes refuse to follow the "little way" of love. Only those who allow themselves to be loved are able to love in turn. Peter allowed the Lord to wash his feet. He let himself be loved, then he understood. Dear young people, experience the love of Christ: you will become aware of what he has done for you and then you will understand. Only those who live in intimacy with their Master can imitate him. Those who are nourished by the Body of Christ find the strength to act in brotherhood. Between Christ and his disciple there is thus created a bond of closeness and unity which profoundly transforms the person’s being, making him or her a servant. Dear young people, you will come to ask yourselves how it is that you are to serve Christ. In the washing of the feet you will find the royal road to union with Christ, in imitating him and in discovering him in your brothers and sisters.

6. By means of your apostolate you offer to your brothers and sisters the Gospel of love. Wherever witness by word is difficult or impossible in a world which does not accept it, by your attitude you make Christ the servant present, because your actions are in harmony with the teaching of the One whom you proclaim. This is an eminent form of professing the faith, a form practised with humility and perseverance by the saints. It is a way of showing that one can sacrifice everything for the truth of the Gospel and out of love for others, as Christ did. By conforming our lives to his, by living in love as he did, we acquire full freedom to respond to our vocation. That can sometimes call for the moral heroism which consists in committing ourselves courageously to following Christ, in the certainty that the Master will show us the way to happiness. It is only in the name of Christ that we can reach the extreme of love, in giving and selflessness.

Dear young people, the Church believes in you. She is counting on you to be witnesses of the Risen One throughout the whole of your lives. You are now going to head out to the places where the various Vigils will be held. Whether in festive celebration or in meditation, look to Christ in order to penetrate the meaning of the divine message and to find the strength for the mission which the Lord entrusts to you in the world, whether as committed lay persons or in the consecrated life. Moreover, in revisiting your daily lives, with clarity and hope and without bitterness or discouragement, and by sharing your experiences, you will feel the presence of God who gently accompanies you. In the light of the lives of the saints and of other witnesses to the Gospel, help one another to affirm your faith and to be the apostles of the Year 2000, reminding the world that the Lord is inviting us to share in his joy and that true happiness consists in giving oneself out of love for others! Play your part in the life of the Church which needs your youth and energy!

Speeches 1997