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POPE CALLS ON YOUTH TO BE FAITHFUL TO CHRIST

VATICAN CITY, AUG 19, 2000 (VIS) - This evening, the Pope called on the two million young people who had gathered to hear him in the campus of Rome's Tor Vergata University that they remain faithful to Christ, and that they not be afraid to commit themselves to Him. John Paul II's request came at the end of the prayer vigil which was the penultimate event of the 15th World Youth Day. The Day will come to a close with tomorrow's Mass.

Prior to reaching the stage from which he presided the vigil, Pope John Paul spent 40 minutes moving through the crowd on his popemobile. He was acclaimed by the young people who sang, applauded, waved colored handkerchiefs and cried "long live the Pope!"

The vigil began with a brief greeting from the Pope and the invocation of martyr saints from Rome and elsewhere. This was followed by a presentation of various experiences undergone by young people along the paths of reconciliation, justice, liberty and saintliness. Later, there was a reading of the verses of the Gospel according to Matthew where Jesus, walking with His disciples towards Caesarea Philippi, asks them what men say about Him.

The Holy Father then pronounced his homily. Commenting the Lord's question to His disciples, "but who do you say that I am?" and Simon Peter's reply, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," the Pope asked: "What is the meaning of this dialogue? Why does Jesus want to know what people think about Him? Why does He want to know what His disciples think about Him?"

"This event, which took place near Caesarea Philippi, leads us, in a sense, into the 'school of faith.' There the mystery of the origin and development of our faith is disclosed. ... The Upper Room in Jerusalem too was a kind of 'school of faith' for the Apostles."

John Paul II said that each of the young people may sense in themselves "the process of questions and answers that we have just been talking about. You can all measure the difficulties you have in
believing, and even feel the temptation not to believe. But at the same time you can also experience a slowly maturing sense and conviction of your commitment in faith. In fact, there is always a meeting between God and the human person in this wonderful school of the human spirit, the school of faith. The Risen Christ always enters the Upper Room of our life and allows each of us to experience His presence and to declare: You, O Christ, You are 'my Lord and my God'."

"Dear friends," he continued, "to believe in Jesus today, to follow Jesus as Peter, Thomas, and the first Apostles and witnesses did, demands of us, just as it did in the past, that we take a stand for Him, almost to the point at times of a new martyrdom: the martyrdom of those who, today as yesterday, are called to go against the tide in order to follow the divine Master. ... It is not by chance, dear young people, that I wanted the witnesses to the faith in the twentieth century to be remembered at the Colosseum during this Holy Year."

"Perhaps you will not have to shed your blood, but you will certainly be asked to be faithful to Christ! A faithfulness to be lived in the circumstances of everyday life: I am thinking of how difficult it is in today's world for engaged couples to be faithful to purity before marriage. I think of how the mutual fidelity of young married couples is put to the test. I think of friendships and how easily the temptation to be disloyal creeps in.

"I think also," he added, "of how those who have chosen the path of special consecration have to struggle to persevere in their dedication to God and to their brothers and sisters. I think of those who want to live a life of solidarity and love in a world where the only things that seem to matter are the logic of profit and one's personal or group interest.

"I think too of those who work for peace and who see new outbreaks of war erupt and grow worse in different parts of the world. I think of those who work for human freedom and see people still slaves of themselves and of one another. I think of those who work to ensure love and respect for human life and who see life so often attacked and the respect due to life so often flouted."

The Holy Father indicated that later he would give the Gospel to the young people. "It is the Pope's gift to you at this unforgettable vigil."

"It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness;" he explained, "He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal."

After highlighting that in their undertakings the young people can count on the help of their families, communities, priests and teachers, the Pope added: "In the struggle against sin you are not alone: so many like you are struggling, and through the Lord's grace are winning!"

"Dear friends, at the dawn of the Third Millennium I see in you the 'morning watchmen'. In the course of the century now past young people like you were summoned to huge gatherings to learn the ways of hatred; they were sent to fight against one another. The various godless messianic systems which tried to take the place of Christian hope have shown themselves to be truly horrendous. Today you have come together to declare that in the new century you will not let yourselves be made into tools of violence and destruction; you will defend peace, paying the price in your person if need be. You will not resign yourselves to a world where other human beings die of hunger, remain illiterate and have no work. You will defend life at every moment of its development; you will strive with all your strength to make this earth ever more livable for all people."

John Paul II concluded his address by assuring the young people that "in saying 'yes' to Christ, you say 'yes' to all your noblest ideals. ... Have no fear of entrusting yourselves to Him! He will guide you, He will grant you the strength to follow Him every day and in every situation."

The Pope then gave the Gospel to a number of young people from all the continents and made an invitation for a renewal of baptismal promises. A number of young men and women presented testimonies of faith, highlighting their own vocations and life situations. The vigil concluded with the singing of the 'Magnificat' and the Holy Father then withdrew.



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