ADDRESS OF JOHN PAUL II
Youth meeting at the Greek-Catholic Cathedral - Damascus
May 7, 2001
Dear Young People,
1. "Peace be with you!" I greet you this evening with the Easter greeting of the Risen Lord to his
disciples. I am happy to meet you at the conclusion of my pilgrimage in the footsteps of the Apostle
Paul in Syria. I thank the two young people who welcomed me in your name. Although you belong to
a variety of Christian confessions, all of you wish to listen to the voice of the one Lord and to journey
together towards him. May your presence here be a sign of your commitment to work together, with
Christís grace, in promoting full visible unity between all Christians!
I cordially greet His Beatitude Patriarch Gregoire III and I thank him for welcoming me in the name
of the Bishops of the Greek-Melkite Patriarchate of Antioch. In this Cathedral I also greet with
fraternal affection the venerable Patriarch Maximos V, who joins us in prayer from his residence in
2. The passage of the Letter to Timothy which we have just heard is a source of encouragment for
you: "If we have died with him, we shall also live with him. If we hold out to the end, we shall also
reign with him. But if we deny him, he will deny us. If we are unfaithful, he will remain faithful, for he
cannot deny himself" (2 Tim 2:11-13).
Dear young people, you are going through a time of life filled with questions and uncertainties. Yet
Christ is calling you and awakening in you a desire to make your life something magnificent and
beautiful, a determination to pursue high ideals, a refusal to be satisfied with mediocrity, and the
courage to make commitments, with patience and perseverance.
3. In order to be able to respond to this call, strive constantly to grow in closeness to the Lord of life.
Remain faithfully in his presence through prayer, knowledge of the Scriptures, the celebration of the
Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this way you will build yourselves up and strengthen
what the Apostle Paul calls "your inner self". An intimate relationship with the Lord is also the secret
behind a fruitful life, a life grounded in what is essential for every human being: namely, dialogue with
God, our Creator and our Savior. In this way, your life will not be superficial, but profoundly rooted in
the spiritual, moral and human values which sustain our whole being and our whole existence.
Remember that you cannot be a Christian if you reject the Church founded on Jesus Christ; you
cannot be called believers unless you put your faith into practice; and you cannot call yourselves
spiritual men and women unless you allow yourselves to be moulded by God, in humble and joyful
openness to his Spirit and in docility to his will. Your lifeís center of gravity must be in God.
Only then you will be able to make choices and to undertake generous commitments. Today you may
be asking questions like: "What road should I take?", "What should I do with my life?", "Whom should
I follow?". Donít be afraid to take time to reflect with older people, in order to consider seriously the
choices you have to make, choices which involve listening to Jesus Christ as he invites you to follow
him along the demanding path of a courageous witness to values worth living for and worth giving
your lives for: values such as truth, faith, human dignity, unity, peace and love. With the help of Christ
and his Church, you will develop each day into men and women who are free and responsible for their
own lives, actively involved in the life of their Church, in strengthening relationships between their
religious and social communities, and in building an ever more just and fraternal society.
4. The Lord Jesus asks his disciples to be signs in the midst of the world, visible and credible agents
of his saving presence wherever they live and work. It is not merely in words but above all by a
particular lifestyle, one marked by a free heart and a creative spirit, that you will help the young
people of your generation to discover that your joy and the source of your happiness is Christ. Do not
separate your faith from your daily life and your daily life from your faith, as so many people do today.
The life and the whole being of each Christian must be unified around a central axis: fidelity to Jesus
Christ. In this way each Christian will constantly be able to repeat with the Apostle: "I know him in
whom I have believed" (2 Tim 1:12).
5. Like the pagans who asked Philip, saying: "We wish want to see Jesus" (Jn 12:21) or the man in
Paulís vision who said: "Come and help us" (cf. Acts 16:9), people today are seeking, however
hesitantly, to know the truth. Often, even when they are not fully aware of it, they wish to know Christ
the one Savior. Dear young people, I invite you today to proclaim Jesus Christ with courage and
fidelity, above all to the young people of your generation. And not only to proclaim Jesus Christ, but
also and even more importantly, to help others to see him. In seeing the way you live, your
contemporaries ought to wonder what is your inspiration and the source of your joy. Then you can say
to them: "Come and see". The Church is counting on you to make Christ better known and better
loved. Like the Apostles and the women on Easter morning, you have met the Risen Lord and have
been given a mission (cf. Jn 20:11-21,25), which is the mission of all the baptized. Love inspires us to
pass on this good news, which has the power to transform individual lives and the future of the world.
6. Dear young people, the future of Christianity in your country depends on better relations and closer
cooperation between the Churches and Ecclesial Communities present here. You know this and you
are already working on it. The fellowship which you are happily experiencing in everyday life, in your
neighbourhoods, in your schools or training centers, and in your groups or your youth activities, is
important to you. It is preparing you even now to contemplate together your future as Christians in
Syria. Strengthen the things that unite you. Meditate together on the Gospel, call upon the Holy Spirit,
listen to the testimony of the Apostles, pray with joy and thanksgiving. Love your ecclesial
communities. They have handed on to you the faith and the testimony for which your forefathers often
payed a high price. They are counting on your courage and your holiness, which are the foundation of
all true reconciliation. May the prayer of Christ "that all may be one" alwa s resound in your hearts as
an invitation and a promise! Your country is marked by fellowship between all parts of society. I
highly esteem this fraternal and peaceful fellowship, and I express my hope that everyone will feel a
real part of the community and be able to make their own contribution, in freedom, to the common
Dear young people, having discovered God, you must now offer him to the world. The "logic" of
Christianity is truly unique! No one can keep this gift unless he also gives it away. This is the same
"logic" which we have seen in the life of divine Master, who humbled himself, even to making the
supreme sacrifice. That is why he was raised up and given the Name which is above every other
name (cf. Phil 2:5-11). The true fruitfulness of every human life is linked to this radical experience of
the mystery of the Passion and the Resurrection.
7. Tonight, with your Patriarchs and your Bishops, your priests and the whole Church, I say to you
once again: Wherever you are, be faithful witnesses to the Incarnate Word of life! Your presence and
readiness to help in your parishes and ecclesial movements, your fraternal concern for those suffering
in body and spirit, your involvement in the building of a society which respects the rights of all and
promotes the common good and peace: these are your commitments because you belong to Christ and
are determined to serve humanity. Dear young Christians, bear witness to "the Gospel of charity"!
Dear young people of Syria: build "the civilization of love"! I say this with great hope and immense
8. To you I renew the challenge which I addressed to the young people of the world on the occasion
of the Great Jubilee: "Do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium! ... With Christ, holiness
Ė the divine plan for every baptized person Ė becomes possible [...]. Jesus walks with you, he renews
your heart and strengthens you with the vigour of his Spirit" (Message for the Fifteenth World
Youth Day, No. 3).
With great affection I bless all of you and your families.