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CHANGE DIRECTION AND TURN TO CHRIST

VATICAN CITY, AUG 20, 2000 (VIS) - At 8:30 a.m. today, John Paul II returned to the campus of Tor Vergata University to preside at the Eucharistic celebration that marked the close of 15th World Youth Day. The Mass was attended by two million young people who last night participated in the prayer vigil on the same site.

In his homily, the Holy Father mentioned the Apostle Peter's question to the Lord, "to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" and commented: "Christ's question cuts across the centuries and comes down to us; it challenges us personally and calls for a decision. What is our answer? Dear young people, if we are here today, it is because we identify with the Apostle Peter's reply."

"Around you, you hear all kinds of words. But only Christ speaks words that stand the test of time and remain for all eternity. The time of life that you are living calls for decisive choices on your part: decisions about the direction of your studies, about work, about your role in society and in the Church. It is important to realize that among the many questions surfacing in your minds, the decisive ones are not about 'what.' The basic question is 'who,' 'who' am I to go to, 'who' am I to follow, 'to whom' should I entrust my life?"

The Holy Father highlighted that "only Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and of Mary, the eternal Word of the Father born two thousand years ago at Bethlehem in Judaea, is capable of satisfying the deepest aspirations of the human heart. In Peter's question: 'To whom shall we go?' the answer regarding the path to follow is already given. It is the path that leads to Christ. And it is possible to meet the divine Master personally: He is in fact truly present on the altar in the reality of His Body and Blood. In the Eucharistic Sacrifice, we can enter into contact with the person of Jesus in a way that is mysterious but real, drinking at the inexhaustible fountain that is His life as the Risen Lord."

"The Eucharist," he continued, "is the sacrament of the presence of Christ, who gives Himself to us because He loves us. He loves each one of us in a unique and personal way in our practical daily lives: in our families, among our friends, at study and work, in rest and relaxation. He loves us when He fills our days with freshness, and also when, in times of suffering, He allows trials to weigh upon us: even in the most severe trials, He lets us hear His voice.

"Yes, dear friends, Christ loves us and He loves us forever! He loves us even when we disappoint Him, when we fail to meet His expectations for us. ... How can we not be grateful to this God who has redeemed us, going so far as to accept the foolishness of the Cross? To God who has come to be at our side and has stayed with us to the end?"

The Pope emphasized that "to celebrate the Eucharist, 'to eat His flesh and drink His blood,' means to accept the wisdom of the Cross and the path of service. ... Our society desperately needs this sign, and young people need it even more so, tempted as they often are by the illusion of an easy and comfortable life, by drugs and pleasure-seeking, only to find themselves in a spiral of despair, meaninglessness and violence. It is urgent to change direction and to turn to Christ. This is the way of justice, solidarity and commitment to building a society and a future worthy of the human person."

"Dear friends, when you go back home, set the Eucharist at the center of your personal life and community life: love the Eucharist, adore the Eucharist and celebrate it, especially on Sundays, the Lord's Day. Live the Eucharist by testifying to God's love for every person. ... May every community always have a priest to celebrate the Eucharist! I ask the Lord therefore to raise up from among you many holy vocations to the priesthood. Today as always the Church needs those who celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice with a pure heart. The world must not be deprived of the gentle and liberating presence of Christ living in the Eucharist!

"You yourselves must be fervent witnesses to Christ's presence on the altar. Let the Eucharist mould your life and the life of the families you will form. Let it guide all life's choices. ... In a special way, may sharing in the Eucharist lead to a new flourishing of vocations to the religious life. In this way the Church will have fresh and generous energies for the great task of the new evangelization."

The Pope affirmed that if some of the young people present heard the Lord's inner call "to give yourselves completely to Him in order to love Him 'with an undivided heart,' do not be held back by doubts or fears. Say 'yes' with courage and without reserve, trusting Him who is faithful to His promises."

At the end of his homily, John Paul II expressed his gratitude to God "for the gift of youth, which continues to be present in the Church and in the world because of you. Thank God for the World Youth Days! Thanks be to God for all the young people who have been involved in them in the past sixteen years! Many of them are now adults who continue to live their faith in their homes and work-places. I am sure, dear friends, that you too will be as good as those who preceded you. You will carry the proclamation of Christ into the new millennium. When you return home, do not grow lax. Reinforce and deepen your bond with the Christian communities to which you belong."
Prior to the Pope's final blessing, the message of the 7th International Youth Forum was read to the assembly. The forum was held in Rome from August 12 to 15.

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