Young people from Sydney and Madrid, coming from the last and the next city to host World Youth Day, joined those from Rome to hear the Pope speak. Together, they stood for the millions who participate in this international gathering promoted by the late Pontiff. Young Poles came as well, accompanying the current cardinal of Krakow, Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was John Paul II’s personal secretary from the time he was archbishop till his last breath.
“Your presence,” Benedict XVI said as he focused his attention on young people, “reminds me of the enthusiasm John Paul II was able to inspire in young generations. [. . .] Since his youth he was a fearless and ardent defender of Christ. For Him he did not spare his energy in order to spread His light everywhere. He chose not to compromise when it came to proclaiming His Truth and defending it. He never tired from spreading love. From the start of his pontificate until 2 April 2005 he was never afraid to proclaim to one and all that only Jesus is the Saviour, the true Liberator of mankind, the whole of mankind.”
“Looking at his life we see how God’s pledge of fecundity to Abraham unfolded,” said the Pope. “Specifically, we can see how, during his long pontificate, he instilled faith in so many youths, at World Youth Day, now in its 23rd edition, in various parts of the world. How many people owe their vocation for the priesthood and the consecrated life to him! How many young families chose to live by the evangelical ideal in search for holiness inspired by the way my venerated predecessor preached and bore witness! How many young men and women converted or kept to the Christian path because of his prayers, encouragement, support and example!”
“It is true! John Paul II was able to impart a strong urge for hope, based on faith in Jesus Christ. As a loving father and attentive educator, he pointed the way to safe and sound points of reference that are indispensable for all, but especially for the young. As he lay dying, the new generation showed how it understood his example, gathering in silent prayer in St Peter’s Square and many other places around the world, feeling that they were losing their Pope; that their “father” in faith was passing away, dying. Yet they also felt he was leaving them in legacy the courage and coherence of his witness. Did he not in fact insist on several occasions that a radical commitment to the Gospel was need? Did he not exhort adults and young people alike to take seriously their joint educational responsibility? I, too, do focus on this concern of his, having stressed it on several occasions when I spoke about the educational emergency now affecting the family, the Church, society and above all young people. As they grow up young people need adults who can provide them with principles and values. At their age they feel the need for others to teach how to live up to high ideals by example even more than by words. But where can we get the light and wisdom to accomplish such a mission which involves all of us in the Church and society? Certainly it is not enough to rely on human resources alone; we must trust divine help first of all.”
Dear young people, without hope life does not exist. Experience shows that everything, our life included, is in danger and can collapse at any time if it has no internal or external reason. This is normal because all that is human, including hope, has no basis in and of itself, but requires a “rock” to stand. That is why Paul writes that Christians are called to build human hope on the “living God” for “only in Him can it be certain and reliable.”
“Be careful though, at a time like ours, and in the cultural and social context in which we live, we might see Christian hope reduced to ideology, group slogan, an outer cover. There is nothing more antithetical to the message of Jesus than this. He does not want his disciples to “play” a role, not even that of hope. He wants them to “be” the hope, and they can be it only if they remain united with Him. He wants each one of you, my dear young people, to be a little spring of hope for your fellow man, so that together all of you can be an oasis of hope for the society in which you live.”
“If Christ’s words dwell in us, we can spread the fire of love he set on earth and carry on high the torch of faith and hope with we which we move towards Him, as we await his glorious return at the end of times.”
“That is the torch Pope John Paul II left us as our inheritance. He handed it to me, his successor, and as an ideal I hand it to you, once more, to you especially, young people of Rome, so that you can continue to keep watch in the morning, vigilant and joyful, in this, the dawn of the 3rd millennium. Please, respond to Christ’s appeal with generosity!”
Benedict XVI’s ended by addressing Mary with the words Totus tuus, John Paul II’s motto, as he entrusted the “noble soul” of the late Pope to the Virgin.