13 April 2003

18th World Youth Day
"Behold, your mother!" (John 19:27)


1. "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Mark 11: 9).


The liturgy of Palm Sunday is like a formal entrance into Holy Week. It combines two contrasting moments: the welcome of Jesus in Jerusalem and the drama of the Passion; the festive "Hosanna" and the repeated cry: "Crucify him!"; the triumphal entry and the apparent defeat through death on the Cross. The liturgy thus anticipates the "hour" in which the Messiah was to suffer greatly, to be put to death, and on the third day to rise again (cf. Matthew 16: 21), and prepares us to live fully the paschal mystery.


2. Rejoice, O daughter of Jerusalem! / Behold, your king comes to you" (Zechariah 9: 9). In welcoming Jesus, the city with the vivid memory of David rejoices; the city of the prophets, many of whom were to suffer martyrdom for the truth; the city of peace, which, down through the ages, has known violence, war and deportation.


In a certain way, Jerusalem can be considered the city-symbol of humanity, especially at this dramatic beginning of the third millennium that we are living. The Palm Sunday rites thus acquire a special eloquence of their own. The words of the Prophet Zechariah ring out as a consolation: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! / Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! / Behold, your king comes to you; /triumphant and victorious is he, / humble and riding on an ass, / ...the battle bow shall be cut off, / and he shall command peace to the nations" (Zechariah 9: 9-10). Today we are celebrating, for today Jesus, the King of peace, enters Jerusalem.


3. Then, on the descent from the Mount of Olives, the children and young people of Jerusalem ran to meet Christ, acclaiming him and waving festive branches of olive and palm.


Meeting him today are the young people of the whole world, who are celebrating the 18th World Youth Day in every diocesan community.


I greet you with great affection, dear young people of Rome, and also you, who have come on pilgrimage from various countries. I greet the many people in charge of youth ministry who are taking part in the Convention on the World Youth Days, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity. And how could we fail to express our fraternal solidarity to your peers who are so sorely tried by war and violence in Iraq, in the Holy Land and in various other regions of the world?


Today, with faith and joy, we acclaim Christ who is our "King": the King of truth, freedom, justice and love. These are the four "pillars" on which it is possible to build true peace, just as Blessed Pope John XXIII wrote 40 years ago in his Encyclical Pacem in Terris. In spirit, I present to you, young people of the whole world, this historical Document, which is more timely than ever: read it, meditate on it, strive to put it into practice. Then you will be "blessed", because you will be true children of the God of peace (cf. Matthew 5: 9).


4. Peace is the gift of Christ, which he obtained for us with the sacrifice of the Cross. To achieve it effectively it is necessary to climb with the divine Teacher up to Calvary. And who can guide us better in this ascent than Mary who, as she stood at the foot of the Cross, was given to us as our mother through the faithful apostle, St John? To help the young discover this marvellous spiritual reality, I chose as the theme of my Message for World Youth Day this year the words of the dying Christ: "Behold, your mother!" (John 19: 27). Accepting this testament of love, John opened his home to Mary (cf. John 19: 27), that is, he welcomed her into his life, sharing with her a completely new spiritual closeness. The intimate bond with the Mother of the Lord will lead the "beloved disciple" to become the apostle of that Love that he drew from the Heart of Christ through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.


5. "Behold, your mother!" Jesus addresses these words to each of you, dear friends. He also asks you to take Mary as your mother "into your home", to welcome her "as one of yours", because "she will discharge her ministry as a mother and train you and mould you until Christ is fully formed in you" (Message for WYD, n. 3; ORE, 19 March 2003, p. 6). May Mary make it so that you respond generously to the Lord's call, and persevere with joy and fidelity in the Christian mission!

Down through the centuries, how many young people have heard this invitation and how many continue to hear it in our time, too.


Young people of the third millennium, do not be afraid to offer your lives as a total response to Christ! It is he, he alone who changes life and the history of the world.


6. "Truly this man was the Son of God!" (Mark 15: 39). We have once again listened to the clear profession of faith expressed by the centurion, who "saw that he thus breathed his last" (ibid.). What he had seen prompted the surprising witness of the Roman soldier, the first to proclaim that this crucified man "was the Son of God".


Lord Jesus, we too have "seen" how you suffered and died for us. Faithful until the last, you rescued us from death with your death. With your Cross you have redeemed us.

O Mary, sorrowful Mother, you are a silent witness of these decisive moments for the history of salvation.


Give us your eyes so that on the face of the crucified One, disfigured by pain, we may recognize the image of the glorious Risen One.


Help us to embrace him and entrust ourselves to him, so that we be made worthy of his promises.

Help us to be faithful today and throughout our lives. Amen!






Palm Sunday, 13 April 2003
18th World Youth Day



Before concluding this solemn celebration, I greet all of you dear young people who have taken part in it.


In a few minutes a delegation of young Canadians will pass the Cross on to a group of their peers, representing the German dioceses. This is an important act that is part of the journey of preparation for the World Youth Day meeting in Cologne in 2005.


I entrusted this Cross to young people during the Holy Year of 1984. At the end of each pilgrimage, it is received at the San Lorenzo Youth Centre, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. I thank Cardinal Stafford, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and his Staff for the attention they devote to the centre, as well as to the Movements, Associations and Communities that help to run it, coordinated by the Emmanuel Community.


The Cross is now continuing on its pilgrimage: it will first travel through various Central and Eastern European countries; then, after Palm Sunday next year it will visit the Dioceses of Germany on its way to Cologne.


Today I also entrust to the delegation from Germany the Icon of Mary. From now on it will accompany the World Youth Days, together with the Cross. Behold, your Mother! It will be a sign of Mary's motherly presence close to young people who are called, like the Apostle John, to welcome her into their lives.


To French-speaking pilgrims


I greet you joyfully, dear young Canadians, accompanied by Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, Archbishop of Toronto; I remember your welcome with emotion. You received the Cross in your country. In contemplating it, you have discovered God's love for you. May you constantly rekindle this spiritual experience in order to live it, to help build the Church in Canada and to be witnesses of the Risen Christ among all young people!


To English-speaking pilgrims


In a special way I welcome the group of young people from Canada, accompanied by the Archbishop of Toronto, Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic. Two years ago, you received the World Youth Day Cross and carried it back with you to Canada, where it brought many people to a powerful experience of God's love. May the spirit of Toronto remain always alive in your hearts and bear abundant fruit in your lives!


To German-speaking pilgrims


A very warm greeting to the delegation of young people from Germany! Dear representatives of the young Catholics, you have come here on pilgrimage to Rome, led by the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, and the Bishop of Meinz, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, in order to receive the World Youth Day Cross. I urge you, dear young brothers and sisters: look at this Cross, draw close to it so that you will recognize the Lord's marvellous love for us and throw yourselves joyfully into his work of renewing hearts!


To Spanish-speaking pilgrims


I cordially greet the Spanish-speaking pilgrims who have taken part in the Palm Sunday liturgy, especially the young people. I urge you to welcome into your hearts Mary, the Mother of the Lord and our Mother. May you walk with her, joyfully and full of hope, contemplating Christ through the prayer of the Rosary, as you make your way towards the next World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany. God bless you!


To Polish-speaking pilgrims


I also greet the young people from Poland. May the Cross of Christ direct you on the path of life and in the sometimes difficult choices of life. Let Mother Most Holy be the model of authentic love for you. "Behold, your Mother"!


We entrust to the Heavenly Mother the hopes and the future of young people all over the world.



Saint Peter's Square
XXI World Youth Day
Sunday, 9 April 2006


Dear Brothers and Sisters,


For 20 years, thanks to Pope John Paul II, Palm Sunday has become in a special way a day for youth - the day on which all young people across the world go to meet Christ, eager to accompany him to their cities and their countries, so that he may be among us and establish his peace in the world. However, if we want to encounter Jesus and then to walk with him on his path, we must ask:  on what path does he want to lead us? What do we expect of him? What does he expect of us?


To understand what happens on Palm Sunday and to know what this means, not only for that hour but for all time, one detail has proved to be important; it also became the key to understanding the event for his disciples too, when they looked back after Easter with new eyes at those tumultuous days.


Jesus entered the Holy City riding on a donkey, that is, the animal of the simple, common country people, and moreover, it was an ass that did not belong to him but one he had asked to borrow for the occasion.


He did not arrive in an ostentatious royal carriage or on horseback like the great figures of the world, but on a borrowed donkey. John tells us that at first the disciples did not understand his action. Only after Easter did they realize that Jesus, by so acting, was fulfilling what the prophets had foretold:  that his action derived from God's Word and was bringing it to fulfilment.


It should be remembered, John said, that in the Book of the Prophet Zechariah we read:  "Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on the colt of an ass" (John 12: 15; cf. Zechariah 9: 9). To understand the significance of the prophecy and, consequently, of Jesus' behaviour, we must listen to the whole of Zechariah's text, which continues thus:  "He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; the warrior's bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth" (cf. 9: 10).


With that, the Prophet says three things about the future king. In the first place he says that he will be a king of the poor, a poor man among the poor and for the poor. In this case poverty is meant in the sense of the anawim of Israel, of those believing and trusting souls that we meet around Jesus - in the perspective of the first Beatitude of the Sermon on the Mount.


A person can be materially poor yet his heart can be full of greed for wealth and for the power that derives from it. The very fact that he lives with envy and covetousness shows that, in his heart, he is one of the rich. He wants to reverse the division of goods so that he himself can take over the situation that was previously theirs.


The poverty that Jesus means - that the prophets mean - presupposes above all inner freedom from the greed for possession and the mania for power. This is a greater reality than merely a different distribution of possessions, which would still be in the material domain and thereby make hearts even harder. It is first and foremost a matter of purification of heart, through which one recognizes possession as responsibility, as a duty towards others, placing oneself under God's gaze and letting oneself be guided by Christ, who from being rich became poor for our sake (cf. II Corinthians 8: 9).


Inner freedom is the prerequisite for overcoming the corruption and greed that devastate the world today. This freedom can only be found if God becomes our richness; it can only be found in the patience of daily sacrifices, in which, as it were, true freedom develops. It is the King who points out to us the way to this goal:  Jesus, whom we acclaim on Palm Sunday, whom we ask to take us with him on his way

The second thing the prophet shows us is that this king will be a king of peace:  he will cause chariots of war and war horses to vanish, he will break bows and proclaim peace.


This is brought about in Jesus through the sign of the Cross. The Cross is the broken bow, in a certain way, God's new, true rainbow which connects the heavens and the earth and bridges the abysses between the continents. The new weapon that Jesus places in our hands is the Cross - a sign of reconciliation, of forgiveness, a sign of love that is stronger than death.


Every time we make the Sign of the Cross we should remember not to confront injustice with other injustice or violence with other violence:  let us remember that we can only overcome evil with good and never by paying evil back with evil.

The third affirmation of the prophet is the preannouncement of universality. Zechariah says that the kingdom of the king of peace extends "from sea to sea... to the ends of the earth". The ancient promise of the earth, made to Abraham and to the Fathers, is replaced here by a new vision:  the domain of the Messianic King is no longer a specific country that would later necessarily be separated from other countries and hence, inevitably, would take a stance against them. His country is the earth, the whole world.


He creates unity in the multiplicity of cultures, overcoming every boundary. By perceptively penetrating the clouds of history that separated the Prophet from Jesus, we see in this prophecy, emerging from the distant horizon of prophecy, the network of Eucharistic communities that embraces the earth, the whole world - a network of communities that constitutes Jesus' "Kingdom of peace", which extends from sea to sea, to the ends of the earth.


He comes in all cultures and all parts of the world, everywhere, in wretched huts and in poor rural areas as well as in the splendour of cathedrals. He is the same everywhere, the One, and thus all those gathered with him in prayer and communion are also united in one body. Christ rules by making himself our Bread and giving himself to us. It is in this way that he builds his Kingdom.

This connection becomes quite clear in the other words from the Old Testament which characterize and explain the Palm Sunday liturgy and its special atmosphere. The crowds acclaim Jesus:  "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" (Mark 11: 9; Psalm 118[117]: 25ff.).


These words are part of the rite of the Feast of Tabernacles, during which the faithful move in a circle around the altar, holding in their hands branches of palm, myrtle and willow.


Now, their palms in their hands, the people raise this cry before Jesus, in whom they see the One who comes in the name of the Lord. The phrase:  "He who comes in the name of the Lord", in fact, had long before become the designation of the Messiah.


In Jesus, they recognize the One who truly comes in the name of the Lord and brings God's presence among them. In the Church, this cry of hope of Israel, this acclamation of Jesus during his entry into Jerusalem, has with good reason become the acclamation of the One who comes in the Eucharist to meet us in a new way. We greet with the cry of "Hosanna!", the One who brought God's glory to the earth in flesh and blood.


We greet the One who came yet always remains, the One who is to come. We greet the One who, in the Eucharist, always comes to us again in the name of the Lord, thus joining the ends of the earth in God's peace.


This experience of universality is an essential part of the Eucharist. Since the Lord comes, we emerge from our exclusive forms of particularism and enter into the great community of all who are celebrating this holy sacrament. We enter his Kingdom of peace and in him, in a certain way, we greet all our brothers and sisters to whom he comes, to become truly a kingdom of peace in the midst of this lacerated world.


All three characteristics announced by the Prophet - poverty, peace, universality - are summed up in the sign of the Cross. Therefore, with good reason, the Cross has become the centre of the World Youth Days.


There was a time - and it has not yet been completely surmounted - in which Christianity was rejected precisely because of the Cross. The Cross speaks of sacrifice, it was said, the Cross is the sign of the denial of life. Instead, we want life in its entirety, without restrictions and without sacrifices. We want to live, all we want is to live. Let us not allow ourselves to be limited by precepts and prohibitions; we want richness and fullness - this is what was said and is still being said.

All this sounds convincing and seductive; it is the language of the serpent that says to us:  "Do not be afraid! Quietly eat the fruit of all the trees in the garden!".


Palm Sunday, however, tells us that the great "Yes" is precisely the Cross, that the Cross itself is the true tree of life. We do not find life by possessing it, but by giving it. Love is a gift of oneself, and for this reason it is the way of true life symbolized by the Cross.


Today, the Cross that was recently the focus of the World Youth Day in Cologne is being consigned to a special delegation so that it may begin the journey to Sydney, where in 2008 the youth of the world are planning to meet again around Christ to build with him the Kingdom of peace.

From Cologne to Sydney - a journey across continents and cultures, a journey through a world torn and tormented by violence! Symbolically, it is like the journey the prophet pointed out from sea to sea, from the river to the ends of the earth. It is the journey of the One who, in the sign of the Cross, gives us peace and makes us become messengers of reconciliation and of his peace.


I thank the young people who will now carry this Cross, in which we can as it were touch the mystery of Jesus on the highways of the world. Let us pray that at the same time, it will touch us and open our hearts, so that by following his Cross we will become messengers of his love and his peace. Amen.






Saint Peter's Square
XXI World Youth Day
Sunday, 9 April 2006



Brothers and sisters,


in a short while a delegation of German youth will consign the World Youth Day Cross to their Australian peers. It is the Cross that beloved John Paul II entrusted to youth in 1984 so that they would bring this sign of Christ's love for humanity into the world.


I greet Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne, and Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, who wished to be present during this very significant moment. The passing on of the Cross after every World Youth Day gathering has become a "tradition" in the true sense of the word traditio, a highly symbolic consignment to be lived with great faith, making the effort to fulfil a journey of conversion following in the footsteps of Jesus.

This faith is taught to us by Mary Most Holy, who was the first "to believe" and who carried her own cross together with her Son, experiencing with him the joy of the Resurrection.


This is why the Youth Day Cross is accompanied by an icon of the Virgin, an image of Mary, Salus Populi Romani, venerated in the Basilica of St Mary Major, the most ancient Basilica of the West dedicated to the Blessed Mother.


The Cross and the Marian Icon of the World Youth Days, after having made stops in some countries of Africa to manifest Christ's closeness and that of his Mother to the people of that Continent, tried by great suffering, will be welcomed in different regions of Oceania beginning this February. It will travel through the Dioceses of Australia and will finally reach Sydney in July 2008.

It is a spiritual pilgrimage that involves the entire Christian community, especially young people.



To the English-speaking faithful: 


I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here this Palm Sunday, when we acclaim Jesus, model of humility, our Messiah and King. In a special way I greet Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, and the young Australians with him. May they be assured of the support and spiritual accompaniment of all of us as they prepare to host World Youth Day 2008. Upon each of you present and your families, I invoke God's Blessings of strength and wisdom.


As the Cross and Icon are consigned: 


Italian-speaking brothers and sisters, among the beautiful olive trees that we see here, donated by the Region of Puglia, let us faithfully pray to the Lord so that this Cross and Icon will be instruments of peace and reconciliation between persons and peoples. We invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary upon the new pilgrimage that begins today, so that it will be abundantly fruitful.


Angelus Domini.... .



Saint Peter's Square
24th World Youth Day
Sunday, 5 April 2009



Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear Young People,


Together with a growing multitude of pilgrims, Jesus had gone up to Jerusalem for the Passover. In the final stage of the journey, near Jericho, he had healed blind Bartimaeus, who called upon him as Son of David, pleading for mercy. Now – having received his sight – he had gratefully joined the group of pilgrims. At the gates of Jerusalem, when Jesus sat upon a donkey, an animal symbolizing the Davidic kingship, there spontaneously arose among the pilgrims the joyful conviction: It is He, the Son of David! Accordingly, they greet Jesus with the messianic acclamation: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”, and they add: “Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9f.). We do not know exactly what the enthusiastic pilgrims imagined the coming kingdom of David would be like. But what about us, have we truly understood the message of Jesus, the Son of David? Have we grasped what is meant by the Kingdom of which He speaks during his interrogation with Pilate? Do we understand what it means to say that this Kingdom is not of this world? Or would we actually prefer that it were of this world?


In Saint John’s Gospel, after the account of the entry into Jerusalem, there follows a series of sayings in which Jesus explains the essential content of this new kind of Kingdom. On a first reading of these texts, we can distinguish three different images of the Kingdom in which the same mystery is reflected in a number of different ways. John recounts, first of all, that during the feast there were some Greeks among the pilgrims who “wanted to adore God” (cf. John 12:20). Let us note the fact that the true intention of these pilgrims was to adore God. This corresponds perfectly to what Jesus says on the occasion of the cleansing of the Temple: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations” (Mark 11:17). The true purpose of the pilgrimage must be that of encountering God; adoring him, and thus rightly ordering the fundamental relationship of our life. The Greeks are searching for God, their lives are a journey towards God. Now, through the two Greek-speaking Apostles, Philip and Andrew, they convey this request to the Lord: “We wish to see Jesus” (John 12:21). These are stirring words. Dear friends, we have gathered here for the same reason: we wish to see Jesus. With this end in view, thousands of young people travelled to Sydney last year. No doubt they will have had many different expectations in making this pilgrimage. But the essential objective was this: we wish to see Jesus.


Concerning this request, what did Jesus say and do at the time? It does not emerge clearly from the Gospel whether any meeting took place between those Greeks and Jesus. Jesus takes a much longer view. The essence of his response to those people’s request is this: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). In other words: what matters here is not a brief conversation with one or two people who then return home. I will come, like a grain of wheat that has died and is risen, in a manner that is totally new and beyond the limits of the moment, to encounter the world of the Greeks. Through the resurrection, Jesus surpasses the limits of space and time. As the Risen One, he is journeying towards the vast horizon of the world and of history. Yes indeed, as the Risen One he goes to the Greeks and speaks with them, he shows himself to them in such a way that they who are far away become near, and it is in their language, in their culture, that his word is carried forward in a new way and understood in a new way – his Kingdom comes. Thus we can recognize two essential characteristics of this Kingdom. The first is that it comes by way of the cross. Since Jesus gives himself completely, then as the Risen One he can belong to all and become present to all. In the holy Eucharist, we receive the fruit of the grain of wheat that died, the multiplication of the loaves that continues to the end of the world and throughout all time. The second characteristic is this: his Kingdom is universal. The ancient hope of Israel is fulfilled: this Davidic kingship no longer has boundaries. It extends “from sea to sea” – as the prophet Zechariah says (9:10) – in other words, it embraces the whole world. Yet this is possible only because it is not a kingship of political power, but is based solely on the free adherence of love – a love which, for its part, is a response to the love of Jesus Christ who gave himself for all. I think that above all we must learn these two things over and over again – universality and catholicity. This means that no-one can propose himself, his culture, his generation and his world as an absolute. It means that we all have to accept one another, renouncing something of ourselves. Universality includes the mystery of the cross – going beyond ourselves, obeying the communal word of Jesus Christ in the communal Church. Universality is always a transcending of ourselves, a renunciation of something that is ours. Universality and the cross go together. Only thus is peace created.




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