POPE PREACHES TO YOUNG PEOPLE ON MOUNT OF THE BEATITUDES

VATICAN CITY, MAR 24, 2000 (VIS) - This morning Pope John Paul traveled by helicopter to Korazim, 135 kilometers north of Jerusalem, and by popemobile to the nearby Mount of the Beatitudes where he celebrated a Mass for an estimated 100,000 people, including 45,000 young people from Middle Eastern countries and from abroad.

On his way from the heliport to the site of the Mass, the Pope stopped to bless the Domus Galilaeae, a center for formation, study and retreats for seminarians and priests from around the world built by the Neocatechumenal Way on land offered to them by the Custody of the Holy Land.

The Mount of the Beatitudes is actually a hill rising 150 meters above and overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Five Franciscan sisters, Missionaries of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, live at the Shrine of the Mount of the Beatitudes.

During Mass, in his homily, the Holy Father extended greetings to the faithful of the Greek-Melkite, Latin, Maronite, Syrian, Armenian and Chaldean communities as well as to members of other Christian Churches and ecclesial communities, "our Muslim friends, members of the Jewish faith and the Druse community."

"We sit on this hill like the first disciples, and we listen to Jesus," the Pope told the young people. "In the stillness, we hear his gentle and urgent voice, as gentle as this land itself and as urgent as a call to choose between life and death.

"How many generations before us have been deeply moved by the Sermon on the Mount! How many young people down the centuries have gathered around Jesus to learn the words of eternal life, as you are gathered here today! How many young hearts have been inspired by the power of His personality and the compelling truth of His message! It is wonderful that you are here!

... This great gathering is like a rehearsal for the World Youth Day to be held in August in Rome!"

Then, referring to Mount Sinai, where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, and to today's site of the Mount of the Beatitudes, John Paul II observed that "these two mountains ... offer us the roadmap of our Christian life and a summary of our responsibilities to God and neighbor.

The Law and the Beatitudes together mark the path of the following of Christ and the royal road to spiritual maturity and freedom."

The Pope said that the Ten Commandments "may seem negative ... but in fact they are supremely positive." And the message of the Beatitudes "may seem strange" as "Jesus exalts those whom the world generally regards as weak" but these words present a challenge which demands a deep and abiding 'metanoia' of the spirit, a great change of heart."

"Not far from this very place," affirmed the Holy Father, "Jesus called His first disciples, as He calls you now. His call has always demanded a choice between the two voices competing for your hearts even now on this hill, the choice between good and evil, between life and death. ... To put your faith in Jesus means choosing to believe what He says, no matter how strange it may seem, and choosing to reject the claims of evil, no matter how sensible or attractive they may seem."

He underlined that "like the first disciples at the Sea of Galilee, you must leave your boats and nets behind, and that is never easy B especially when you face an uncertain future and are tempted to lose faith in your Christian heritage. To be good Christians may seem beyond your strength in  today's world. But Jesus does not stand by and leave you alone to face the challenge."

"Now, at the dawn of the Third Millennium," Pope John Paul concluded, "it is your turn to go out into the world to preach the message of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. ... Now it is your turn to be courageous apostles of the Kingdom!"

At the end of Mass the Holy Father greeted the young people present in Italian, French, German, Spanish, Polish, Hebrew and Arabic. He watched as several young people released white doves, and he then blessed several saplings which will be planted on the Mount of the Beatitudes.

He then added: "During these days, my thoughts turn with hope to the initiatives being taken by the Organization of African Unity to restore peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea. These efforts have now reached a very delicate stage. It is a matter of finding a path that will lead to the conditions necessary for the well-being and progress of the peoples of the entire region, already greatly affected by famine. Let us pray that this part of the world will work for a just solution."

Following Mass Pope John Paul went to the shrine of the Mount of the Beatitudes for lunch with the papal party.