S. John Paul II Homil. 1253



Monday, 19 March 2001

1. "Here is the wise and faithful servant, whom the Lord has put in charge of his household" (cf. Lc 12,42).

This is how today's liturgy presents St Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Guardian of the Redeemer. He was the wise and faithful servant who, with obedient docility, accepted the will of the Lord, who entrusted him with "his" family on earth to watch over it with daily devotion.

St Joseph persevered in this mission with fidelity and love. The Church, therefore, offers him to us as an exceptional model of service to Christ and to his mysterious plan of salvation. And she calls upon him as the special patron and protector of the whole family of believers. In a special way, Joseph is presented to us on his feast day as the saint under whose powerful protection divine Providence has wished to place the persons and ministry of all who are called to be "fathers" and "guardians" among the Christian people.

2. ""Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously'.... "How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?'" (Lc 2,48-49).
In this simple, family conversation between Mother and Son, which we heard a few moments ago in the Gospel, we find the characteristics of Joseph's holiness. They correspond to God's plan for him, which he, being the just man that he was, would fulfil with marvellous fidelity.

"Your father and I have been looking for you anxiously", Mary said. "I must be in my Father's house", Jesus replies. It is precisely these words of the Son that help us to understand the mystery of Joseph's "fatherhood". In reminding his parents of the primacy of the One whom he called "my Father", Jesus reveals the truth about Mary's and Joseph's role. The latter was truly Mary's "husband" and Jesus' "father", as she affirmed when she said: "Your father and I have been looking for you". But his being a husband and father is totally subordinate to that of God.

1254 This is how Joseph of Nazareth was called, in turn, to become one of Jesus' disciples: by dedicating his life to serving the only-begotten Son of the Father and of his Virgin Mother, Mary.
It is a mission that he continues to carry out for the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, to which he never fails to give his provident care, as he did for the humble family of Nazareth.

3. In this context, it is easy to turn our attention to what is the centre of our celebration today. I am about to lay hands on nine priests who are called to assume the responsibility of Bishops in the Church. In the Christian community the Bishop fulfils a task that has many similarities to St Joseph's. This is well expressed in the Preface of today's solemnity, which describes Joseph as "that wise and loyal servant, whom you placed at the head of your family.... With fatherly care he watched over Jesus Christ your Son". In the Church Pastors are "fathers" and "guardians" who are called to act as wise and loyal "servants". They are entrusted with the daily care of the Christian people, who, with their help, can confidently advance on the way of Christian perfection.

Venerable and dear ordinands, the Church gathers round you and assures you of her prayer, so that you can fulfil your pastoral ministry with faithful generosity in the likeness of St Joseph. Those who are accompanying you on this festive day assure you particularly of their prayer: your relatives, priests, friends and the communities from which you come and to which you are being sent.

4. The episcopal ordinations that I usually confer on Epiphany were postponed this year because of the closing of the Great Jubilee. I thus have the opportunity to celebrate this rite on today's feast, which is so dear to the Christian people. This allows me to entrust each of you, with particular insistence, to the constant protection of St Joseph, patron of the universal Church.

I greet you very warmly, dear friends, and with you I greet everyone who shares your joy. I sincerely hope that you will continue with renewed generosity the service that you are already giving to the Gospel cause.

5. You, Archbishop Fernando Filoni, are entrusted with the mission of Apostolic Nuncio in Iraq and Jordan, to support the Christian communities dispersed throughout those lands: I am sure that you will be a messenger of peace and hope for them. You, Archbishop Henryk Józef Nowacki, after working for many years at my side, will be the Apostolic See's representative in Slovakia, an ardent herald of the Gospel in that country of ancient Christian tradition. And you, Archbishop Timothy Paul Broglio, to whom I am grateful for the faithful cooperation you offered the Cardinal Secretary of State, will go to the gateway of the American continent as Nuncio in the Dominican Republic and Apostolic Delegate in Puerto Rico: be a witness among those dear people to the affection of Peter's Successor.

And I am grateful to you, Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, for your valuable service in the Secretariat of State and now, as I entrust you with the Prelature of Pompei and its renowned Marian shrine, I place your ministry under the benevolent gaze of Our Lady of the Rosary, asking her to guide your way in the footsteps of St Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, your native land, and the boast of Campania. May the Blessed Virgin continue to watch over your steps too, Bishop Tomasz Peta, who are called to assume the Apostolic Administration of Astana in Kazakhstan, where you have already been working for several years with praiseworthy apostolic zeal.

You, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, will continue your valued service as Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and of Social Sciences, institutions which I consider very important for the Church's dialogue with the world of culture. And I wanted to entrust you, Bishop Marc Ouellet, with the office of Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, a task of particular significance for the very noble goal that inspires it and for the fresh hopes that the celebration of the Jubilee Year has stirred in the hearts of many Christians. And you, Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, will assume the role of Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, continuing with greater responsibilities your already distinguished service in that dicastery. Lastly, I affectionately embrace you, Bishop Djura Dzudzar, whom I have chosen as Auxiliary to the Eparch of Mukacheve in Transcarpathian Ukraine, a country which, God willing, I will soon have the joy of visiting and to which I now send a cordial greeting.

6. Dear Brothers, like St Joseph, the model and guide for your ministry, love and serve the Church. Imitate the example of this great saint, as well as that of his Wife, Mary. If you occasionally encounter difficulties and obstacles, be ready and willing to suffer with Christ for the sake of his Mystical Body (cf. Col
Col 1,24), so that you can rejoice with him over a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle, holy and unblemished (cf. Eph Ep 5,27). The Lord, who will not fail to give you his grace, today consecrates you and sends you as apostles into the world. Keep his words engraved on your hearts: "I am with you always" (Mt 28,20), and do not be afraid. Like Mary, like Joseph, always trust in him. He has overcome the world.


Friday, 23 March 2001

1255 1. "As a shepherd seeks out his flock ... so will I seek out my sheep.... I will bring them out from the peoples, and gather them from the countries" (Ez 34,12-13).

The words of the prophet Ezekiel, which we have just heard, testify to God's constant concern for his faithful ones, whom he has never tired of gathering "from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" throughout history. He brings them together to make them his "kingdom and priests" (cf. Rv Ap 5,9-10), carrying out his merciful plan of salvation.

This is what God has also done for the beloved Korean people, and today's celebration gives us a new occasion to thank him. This very year is the bicentenary of the great persecution of 1801, which claimed the lives of over 300 Christians in your homeland. Thanks to the courage of those witnesses to the faith and of others who followed their example, the Gospel seed, a seed of hope, did not die despite the successive waves of persecution. On the contrary, it gradually developed, giving the Church in your country solidity and an amazing growth. In truth, we can rightly say this evening that God has taken care of his faithful people.

2. "Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one" (Jn 17,11).

Jesus' deeply consoling words have rung out in our assembly, taking us back to the Upper Room, to the dramatic eve of his death on the cross. They are words that continue over time to be proclaimed in the Church; words that have sustained countless martyrs and confessors of the faith in moments of difficulty and trial.

This evening I am thinking of the saints of beloved Korea and, among them, of St Andrew Kim Taegon, whom you have chosen as your patron. We can imagine that he often paused to meditate on the divine Teacher's words. At the crucial hour, encouraged by the Lord's prayer, he did not hesitate to "lose" everything (cf. Phil Ph 3,8) for him. He was faithful unto death. It is said that, while he was waiting to be executed, he encouraged his brethren in the faith with expressions that impressively echoed Jesus' prayer to the Father for his disciples. "Do not let misfortunes frighten you", he begged them; "do not lose heart and do not shrink from serving God, but, following in the footsteps of the saints, promote the glory of his Church and show yourselves true soldiers and subjects of God. Even if you are many, be of one heart; always remember charity; support and help one another, and wait for the moment when God will have mercy on you".

3. "Be of one heart!". St Andrew Kim Taegon exhorted believers to draw from divine love the strength to remain united and to resist evil. Like the early community, in which all were "of one heart and soul" (Ac 4,32), the Korean Church had to find the secret of her own cohesion and growth in following the teaching of the Successors of the Apostles, in prayer and in the breaking of bread (cf. Acts Ac 2,42).

This same unity of intentions and the same spirit of love - I am certain - will be the soul of the Pontifical Korean College, which we are inaugurating with today's celebration. With this hope I cordially greet you, dear brothers and sisters. I extend a special greeting to Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan and the Bishops present, and I offer my particular gratitude to Bishop Michael Pak Jeong-il, who has expressed the sentiments you share. I also greet the College's rector, the student priests, the authorities present, the women religious staff and the other guests.

I would also like to mention the entire Christian community of your country, which is so dear to me, the Bishops and priests, the religious, the laity, the families and young people. I entrust each and every one to the intercession of St Andrew Kim Taegon, so that the love of God and neighbour may continue to fill the hearts and history of the Korean people.

4. This house, so ardently desired by the Bishops of Korea, will be a residence for seminarians and priests who will spend time in Rome to prepare specifically and intensely for the priestly ministry. In addition to taking academic courses at Rome's pontifical universities, they will be able to have a deeper understanding of their mission as witnesses of the Truth, apostles of Christ's Love, tireless heralds of the Gospel and zealous Pastors of the Christian people.

Their entire theological and pastoral formation will aim at enabling every priest to be Christ for others, a convincing sign of his love and his saving action. But where will they be able to learn the secret of this apostolic service if not in close contact with the Lord? Their first concern, therefore, can only be constant familiarity with Jesus in the Eucharist and trusting recourse in prayer to his grace and to the light of his Word.

1256 5. "I have given them your word.... Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth" (Jn 17,14).

By meditating frequently on Jesus' discourse in the Upper Room, from which these words were taken, the residents of this College will acquire a better understanding of the mission to which priests are called. They will hear echoing in their spirit the Master's reassurance: "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you" (Jn 15,15).

Strengthened by constant communion with him, they will be able to proclaim with firm trust: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want" (Ps 23,1).

May this College breathe each day the atmosphere of the Upper Room! It is an indispensable atmosphere, as St Charles Borromeo said, "for bringing Christ to birth in us and in others" (St Charles Borromeo, Acta Ecclesiae Mediolanensis, Milan 1559, 1178).

May Korea's patron saints, especially St Andrew Kim Taegon, watch over all who live here. May the Immaculate Virgin, Mother of the Redeemer and Star of Evangelization, give them her special protection.


Sunday, 25 March 2001

1. "We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2Co 5,20). Today, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, the Apostle Paul's words ring out with special eloquence. They are a powerful call to conversion and reconciliation with God. They are an invitation to set out on a journey of authentic spiritual renewal. In experiencing the merciful love of our heavenly Father, the believer in turn becomes a herald and witness of the extraordinary gift offered to all humanity in the crucified and risen Christ.

In this regard the Apostle recalls: "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself" (ibid., 5: 18). He adds that God continues to appeal through us, "entrusting to us the message of reconciliation" (ibid., 5: 19). The mission of proclaiming reconciliation is the task, first of all, of the Apostles and their successors; it also involves every Christian according to the responsibilities and ways appropriate to his state in life. We are all called, therefore, to be "missionaries of reconciliation" in our words and in our lives.

2. "Be reconciled to God!". Making Paul's exhortation my own, I am pleased to greet you all, dear brothers and sisters of St Dominic de Guzmán Parish and those who live in the suburb of Cinquina! As I continue my pastoral pilgrimage to the parish communities of Rome, I have the joy of being among you today. I affectionately greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishop for this sector, your zealous parish priest, Fr Paolo Corsi, the parochial vicar and the other priests. I greet the religious and all who actively work in the various pastoral activities. I greet the families, the elderly, the sick and those who were unable to be with us, but are spiritually united with us. I thank those who, in the name of the whole parish family, addressed kind words of welcome to me at the beginning of Holy Mass.

I extend a special greeting to you, dear young people, who make a significant contribution by the freshness of your enthusiasm. Let me take this occasion to remind you of our important meeting on Thursday, 5 April, in St Peter's Square at 5.00 p.m. Together with your other peers from Rome, we will gather to pray and prepare ourselves for the 16th World Youth Day which, as you know, is celebrated this year in the individual Dioceses on Palm Sunday. I also greet you, dear children, and thank you for your warm welcome.

3. Today's liturgy, filled with appeals for forgiveness and reconciliation, gives us some helpful encouragement for a review of our personal and community life. Furthermore, what an appropriate opportunity it offers your parish for reflecting on its past history, its present commitment and its future prospects!

1257 In the almost 27 years since its foundation, your parish has made remarkable efforts to accommodate the many families that have come to live here. Now it is necessary to take a determined step forward, putting the primary emphasis on evangelization through suitable courses of Christian formation. Your parish community has already embarked on this pastoral journey by actively participating in the City Mission and the celebration of the Great Jubilee. Another providential stage on this journey will be the Diocesan Convention that will take place this June, for which I invite you to prepare with care and especially with prayer.

You are faced with a demanding challenge. As you yourselves observe, you must organize a real course of faith formation that involves those who will receive the sacraments of Christian initiation and which continues through adolescence and young adulthood, and later involves engaged couples and families. To this end, you can make the most of the various existing methods, from catechesis to interesting youth activities, such as the "post-Confirmation" meetings for children, summer camps, theatre workshops and after-school activities, including those intended for small children. An increasingly active presence of lay people in the structures of pastoral participation should also be encouraged. It is equally important to encourage the collaboration of the faithful in parish life through membership in Church associations, groups and movements, and in the opportunities offered by Caritas and the Vincentian Volunteer Service.

4. To carry out this vast apostolic programme, dedication to prayer and to hearing God's word is the first thing necessary. I know that in the parish you have various prayer meetings and weekly Eucharistic adoration: I congratulate you. May the heart of every project and missionary plan, dear brothers and sisters, always be Holy Mass, celebrated with faith and joy especially on Sunday, the "Lord's Day".

By contemplating the face of Christ, who died and rose for us, and by celebrating his presence in the Eucharist, you will be able to continue more faithfully and courageously in the great task of the "new evangelization". It is a pressing duty. Indeed, your neighbourhood has not been spared the challenge of sects. I must tell you to make every effort to proclaim the Gospel to your children and to all people of good will, just as the Church has proclaimed it for 2,000 years. Clearly present the truths of the Christian faith, always accompanying them with the language of love and brotherhood that everyone can understand.

5. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come" (
2Co 5,17). That is exactly how it is: in Christ everything is renewed and hope is constantly reborn, even after sad and bitter experiences. The parable of the "Prodigal Son", better described as the parable of the "Merciful Father", proclaimed at our gathering today, assures us that the heavenly Father's merciful love can radically change the attitude of every prodigal son: it can make him a new creation.

He who, after sinning against heaven, was lost and had died is now truly pardoned and restored to life. An extraordinary wonder of God's mercy! The Church's mission is to proclaim and share with all people the great treasure of the "Gospel of mercy".

This is the source of the joy that pervades the liturgy of this Sunday, called precisely "Laetare Sunday", from the first Latin words of the entrance antiphon. It is the joy of the ancient people of Israel, who were able to celebrate their first Passover and enjoy the fruits of the promised land after 40 years of journeying in the desert. It is also the joy of all of us who, after observing the 40 days of Lent, will relive the paschal mystery.

May we be accompanied on this journey by Mary, who with the "fiat" of the Annunciation opened the doors of humanity to the gift of salvation. Through her intercession may we say our "yes" each day to Christ, so as to be ever more fully "reconciled to God". Amen.



Sunday, 1 April 2001

1. "The Lord has done great things for us" (cf. Ps Ps 125 [126]: 3). These words, which we repeated as the refrain to the Responsorial Psalm, beautifully summarize the biblical themes presented today on the Fifth Sunday of Lent. Already in the first reading, taken from the so-called "Second Isaiah", the anonymous prophet of the Babylonian exile announces the salvation that God has prepared for his people. The departure from Babylon and the return to the homeland will be like a new and greater Exodus.

At that time God had freed the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and overcome the obstacle of the sea; now he brings his people back to the promised land, marking out a safe path through the desert. "Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert" (Is 43,19).

1258 "A new thing": we Christians know that, when the Old Testament speaks of "new realities", the ultimate reference is to the truly great "newness" in history: Christ, who came into the world to free mankind from the slavery of sin, evil and death.

2. "Woman ... has no one condemned you? ... neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again" (
Jn 8,10-11). Jesus is newness of life for those who open their hearts and, after acknowledging their sins, receive his saving mercy. In today's Gospel text, the Lord offers this gift of his love to the adulteress, who is forgiven and restored to her full human and spiritual dignity. He also offers it to her accusers, but their spirit remains closed and impenetrable.

Here is an invitation to meditate on the paradoxical refusal of his merciful love. It is as though the trial against Jesus were already beginning, a trial that we will relive in a few days during the events of his Passion: it will result in his unjust sentence to death on the cross. On the one hand, the redeeming love of Christ, freely offered to everyone; on the other, the closure of those who, moved by envy, seek a motive to kill him. Accused even of opposing the Law, Jesus is "put to the test": if he absolves the woman caught in flagrant adultery, it will be said that he has transgressed the precepts of Moses; if he condemns her, it will be said that he is inconsistent with his message of mercy towards sinners.

But Jesus does not fall into the trap. By his silence he invites everyone to self-reflection. On the one hand, he invites the woman to acknowledge the wrong committed; on the other, he invites her accusers not to shrink from an examination of conscience: "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her" (Jn 8,7).

The woman's situation is certainly serious. But the message flows precisely from this situation: in whatever condition we find ourselves, we can always open ourselves to conversion and receive forgiveness for our sins. "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again" (Jn 8,11). On Calvary, by the supreme sacrifice of his life, the Messiah will seal for every man and woman the infinite gift of God's pardon and mercy.

3. Dear brothers and sisters, I am very pleased to be here today with you in this newly founded parish. Resulting from the consolidation of the Parishes of Our Lady of Suffrage and St Augustine of Canterbury, it was consecrated a year ago by the Cardinal Vicar, whom I greet with affection. Together with him I greet the Bishop for this area, your dear parish priest, Fr Giulio Ramiccia, and the priests who work with him. I express my cordial gratitude to all who welcomed me in your name at the beginning of Holy Mass.

My gratitude also goes to the sisters who live and work in this area: the Minim Sisters of Our Lady of Suffrage, the Daughters of the Sacred Heart, the Sisters of the Congregation of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Nursing Sisters of Mercy and the Adsis Community. I affectionately embrace those who are cared for in these places throughout the parish and those who serve them daily. I greet the members of the pastoral and the finance councils, as well as the members of the various groups and associations of your community. I greet you, children, and everyone here, extending my thoughts to the residents of the entire district of Torre Maura.

4. I come among you on the Sunday that our Diocese dedicates in a special way to the witness of charity. In your parish, as in other suburban neighbourhoods of the city, there are many situations of hardship: from drug addiction to usury, from prostitution to youth problems, from unemployment to the difficult integration of immigrants.

Your community is quite active in these areas and it tries to give concrete answers to those who live in serious difficulties. Dear friends, during this time of Lent intensify your concern for those in need. Together with fasting and prayer, charity is one of the distinctive elements of the Lenten journey. Therefore, spread more and more good and make concern for the "least" one of the cornerstones of your pastoral activity.

Use every means to help the residents of your area to discover that Christ and his Gospel answer the real needs of the individual and the family. May this spirit inspire the programme of family visits, which began on the occasion of the City Mission and which you are now appropriately continuing.

I am now thinking with special affection of you, dear young people, who were the protagonists of the last World Youth Day in the heart of the Great Jubilee. I know that in your parish you welcomed about 1,500 young people from various parts of the world. I congratulate you for what you did in a spirit of self-denial, offering the adults proof of your goodwill. Continue to make your mark in the community by your evangelical fidelity, so that through you many of your peers may encounter Jesus. I await you next Thursday in St Peter's Square, with all the young people of Rome, to prepare ourselves to celebrate the World Youth Day which, as you know, will be next Sunday, Palm Sunday.

1259 5. "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Ph 3,8). To know Christ! On this last stage of our Lenten journey we are encouraged even more by the liturgy to deepen our knowledge of Jesus, to contemplate his suffering and merciful face, and to prepare ourselves to experience the splendour of his resurrection. We cannot remain on the surface. We must have a deep, personal experience of the richness of Christ's love. Only in this way, as the Apostle says, can we "know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible [we] may attain the resurrection from the dead" (Ph 3,10).

Like Paul, every Christian is on a journey; the Church is on a journey. Let us not stop, brothers and sisters, or slow our pace. On the contrary, let us strive with all our strength for the goal to which God calls us. Let us run towards Easter, now close at hand. May Mary, the Virgin of the Way, guide and accompany us with her protection. May she, the Virgin whom you venerate here as "Our Lady of Suffrage", intercede for us now and at the hour of our death, of our final encounter with Christ. Amen!



8 April 2001

1. "Hosanna!", "Crucify him!". The significance of the two events we are recalling at this Sunday's liturgy could be summed up in these words, probably shouted by the same crowd in the space of a few days.

With the acclamation "Blessed is he who comes!", in a burst of enthusiasm, the people of Jerusalem waved palm branches and greeted Jesus as he entered the city riding on an ass. With the words: "Crucify him!", shouted twice in a crescendo of fury, the multitude clamoured for the Roman governor to condemn the accused as he stood silently in the Praetorium.

Our celebration therefore begins with a "Hosanna!" and ends with a "Crucify him!". The palm of triumph and the cross of the Passion: this is not a contradiction; rather, it is the heart of the mystery that we want to proclaim. Jesus gave himself up voluntarily to the Passion; he was not crushed by forces greater than himself. He freely faced crucifixion and in death was triumphant.

By searching the Father's will, he realized that his "hour" had come and he accepted it with the free obedience of the Son and with infinite love for human beings: "When Jesus knew that this hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (Jn 13,1).

2. Today we look at Jesus who is nearing the end of his life and is presented as the Messiah long awaited by the people, sent by God in his name to bring peace and salvation, although in a different way from what contemporaries were expecting.

Jesus' work of salvation and liberation continues down the centuries. That is why the Church, which firmly believes him to be present, even if invisibly, never tires of acclaiming him in her praise and adoration. Our assembly therefore proclaims once again: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!".

3. The reading of the Gospel passage has set before our eyes the terrible scenes of Jesus' Passion: his physical and moral suffering, Judas' kiss, the disciples' desertion, the trial before Pilate, the insults and scorn, the condemnation, the sorrowful way, the crucifixion. Finally, the most mysterious suffering: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?". A loud cry, then death.
Why all this? The beginning of the Eucharistic prayer will give us the answer: "Though he was sinless, he suffered willingly for sinners. Though innocent, he accepted death to save the guilty. By his dying he has destroyed our sins. By his rising he has raised us up to holiness of life" (Preface).
1260 Our celebration thus expresses gratitude and love to the One who sacrificed himself for us, to the Servant of God who, as the prophet said, was not rebellious, did not turn backwards, gave his back to the smiters and did not hide his face from shame and spitting (cf. Is Is 50,4-7).

4. However, in reading the account of the Passion, the Church does not only consider Jesus' sufferings; she approaches this mystery, trembling yet confident, knowing that her Lord is risen. The light of Easter reveals the great teaching contained in the Passion: life is affirmed through the sincere gift of self to the point of suffering death for others, for the Other.

Jesus did not understand his earthly existence as a search for power, as a race for success or a career, as a desire to dominate others. On the contrary, he gave up the privileges of his equality with God, took the form of a servant, became like men and was obedient to the Father's plan unto death on the cross. Thus he left his disciples and the Church a valuable lesson: "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (Jn 12,24).

5. For some years now Palm Sunday has become World Youth Day, your Day, dear young people who have come here from the various parishes of the Diocese of Rome and from other parts of the world: together with you, I also greet with affection and hope your peers who today, in the various local Churches, are celebrating the 16th World Youth Day, the first of the new millennium.

I particularly greet the young people of the Canadian Delegation, led by Cardinal Ambrozic, Archbishop of Toronto, who are here with us to receive the Cross around which all the young people from every continent will gather on the next World Youth Day in 2002. Once again I forcefully point out to each and every one the Cross of Christ as the path of life and salvation, the way that leads to the palm of triumph on the day of resurrection.

What do we see on the Cross standing before us, which for 2,000 years the world has not ceased to question and the Church to contemplate? We see Jesus, the Son of God who became man in order to restore man to God. He who is without sin is now crucified before us. He is free, despite being nailed to the wood. He is innocent, even under the inscription stating the reason for his sentence. None of his bones were broken (cf. Ps Ps 34,21), because he is the supporting column of a new world. His tunic was not torn (cf. Jn Jn 19,24), because the body of the Lord of life, who conquered death, cannot undergo corruption.

6. Dear young people, Jesus died and is risen; he now lives for ever! He gave his life. But no one took it from him; he gave it "for us" (Jn 10,18). Life came to us through his cross. Through his death and resurrection the Gospel triumphed and the Church was born.

As we confidently enter the new century and the new millennium, dear young people, the Pope repeats to you the words of the Apostle Paul: "If we have died with Jesus, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him" (2Tm 2,11). For Jesus alone is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (cf. Jn Jn 14,6).

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? The Apostle has also given us the answer: "I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rm 8,38-39).

Praise and glory to you, O Christ, Word of God, Saviour of the world!

S. John Paul II Homil. 1253