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Youth committed to culture of life

August 18, 1993

In Denver young people proclaimed their Catholic identity and their desire to form relationships based on truths and values of the Gospel


At the General Audience of Wednesday, 18 August, the Holy Father reflected on his recent journey to the United States for the Eighth World Youth Day in Denver, a trip that included a Pastoral Visit to Jamaica and the Mexican peninsula of Yucatán. Promoting a "culture of life" was the overall theme of the Pope's message, which he again stressed in his catechesis at the Audience. Here is a translation of the Holy Father's address, which was given in Italian.

1. "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10).

Dear brothers and sisters, this was the main theme of the world youth meeting that took place several days ago in Denver, Colorado, in the centre of the United States of America.

On 12 October last year, America initiated the celebrations commemorating the fifth centenary of the evangelization that had begun precisely on 12 October 1492 in Santo Domingo. The youth meeting in Denver took place toward the end of the jubilee year commemorating this important event. Therefore, it is an integral part of the celebrations for that fifth centenary, taking its point of departure precisely from that very theme: evangelization, life in Christ, the fullness of life.

I thank the Lord that I could return to that continent from 9-15 August to retrace the path of the new evangelization.

2. The first stop on the apostolic journey was Kingston, the capital of Jamaica. The visit to the home for the poor run by Mother Teresa of Calcutta's sisters was particularly moving; and there were warm meetings with priests and religious in Holy Trinity Cathedral, with the laity in the auditorium of St George's College, and with representatives of the Anglican and Protestant denominations and of the Jewish community in the parish church of Holy Cross.

My stay in Jamaica concluded with a solemn Eucharistic celebration in the National Stadium. In recalling the great evils caused by the slave trade, which trampled on the dignity of the human person, the image of God, I emphasized, in the homily, the basic values of marriage and the Christian family, values proclaimed by the Gospel and constantly reiterated by the Church's Magisterium.

Church worked to support the indigenous

3. I then went to the Mexican peninsula of Yucatán, specifically, to Izamal and Mérida, where, in the context of the Fifth Centenary of the Evangelization of the New World, I wanted to pay due homage to the descendants of those living on the American continent at the time when the cross of Christ was erected there, 12 October 1492. A "pilgrim" for the third time in Mexico, I wanted to reconfirm my solidarity and that of the whole Church with the joys and sufferings of the great, noble Mexican people.

At the shrine of Our Lady of Izamal, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, "Queen and Patroness of Yucatán", and built on the foundations of a Mayan pyramid, a significant meeting took place with the indigenous people. I extended my greeting to the peoples and ethnic groups of America, from North to South, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, naming each of them. In mentioning the Mayan culture, as well as the Aztec and Incan, I intended to underscore how the ancestral values and sacred vision of life were opened to the Gospel message and, at the same time, to recall the Church's work in defending the Indios and in supporting the local people when they were threatened with mistreatment and abuse.

The solemn Eucharistic celebration in Mérida on the esplanade of Xoclan-Mulsay concluded my stay in Mexico.

4. The stop in Denver was important, for it allowed me to meet thousands and thousands of young people, who were more numerous than expected. I prayed and reflected with them on the theme of the life flowing from Christ. With them I was able to look hopefully at the present, and particularly, to the future, despite the difficulties humanity is experiencing in this unique period of its history.

In fact, the World Youth Days arose from the desire to offer young people significant "rest stops" on their continuing pilgrimage of faith, which is also nourished by meeting contemporaries from other countries and comparing respective experiences.

The annual celebrations of this "Day" mark, as it were, pauses for reflection and examination on this journey of faith and evangelization: times for common prayer and meditation on themes studied in advance within youth associations, movements and groups at the parish and diocesan level.

5. Thus young people feel they are on a continual pilgrimage on the highways of the world. In them the Church sees herself and her mission in the midst of mankind; with them she welcomes the great challenges of the future, aware that all humanity needs a renewed youthfulness of spirit.

How could we not thank God for the fruits of genuine renewal produced by these World Youth Days? From the first meeting, held in St Peter's Square on Palm Sunday of 1986, a tradition began that has seen world and diocesan meetings in alternating years, as if to emphasize the indispensable vigour of young people's apostolic commitment, at both the local and universal level. Since that time there has been a meeting every two years: in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and Czestochowa, Poland.

It was fitting for us to meet this year in America at the end of the fifth centenary of the evangelization of that continent, in order to give witness to the urgent need to break down the "walls" of poverty and injustice, of indifference and selfishness, so that an open and welcoming world can be built, one based on Christ, who came to earth so that mankind "may have life and have it abundantly".

6. The most interesting aspect of the Denver gathering was certainly the response of the young people, who came from all the Dioceses of the United States and from every continent, to show their openness to the life that is Christ. They came to pray. At the various meetings they showed a deep awareness of God's presence in their lives. Significant moments were the Way of the Cross, the Mass for the delegates to the International Youth Forum and, especially, the vigil and the solemn Mass on the feast of the Assumption.

This great pilgrimage of young people did not have a shrine for its destination, but a modern city. In the heart of this "metropolis", the world's young people proclaimed their identity as Catholics and their desire to build human relationships based on the truths and values of the Gospel. They gathered in Denver to say "yes" to life and to peace, against the threats of death that jeopardize the culture of life. The true centre of the Eighth World Youth Day was the young people themselves.

Young people are aware of the challenges they face

7. Dear brothers and sisters, my sincere thanks go to all those who made this great meeting and the Pastoral Visits to Jamaica and Mérida possible. I thank all the authorities of the countries visited for their attentive assistance and, in particular, the Governor-General of Jamaica, the President of Mexico and the President of the United States.

I thank the Episcopal Conferences of the three nations and the Prelates of the Archdioceses I visited and all those who in various ways helped make this apostolic pilgrimage of mine a success.

Above all, it is to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that I raise my grateful thoughts. The Holy Spirit inspires love and devotion in the hearts of young people. In Denver they showed their awareness of the challenges awaiting them; to fulfil their mission they especially rely on the Lord's grace.

I entrust the expectations and spiritual fruits of World Youth Day to the intercession of Mary assumed into heaven. May she lead and encourage young people to continue their pilgrimage of faith and prepare them for the next World Youth Day, which will take place in Manila at the beginning of 1995.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:

I greet all the English speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Audience, including the pilgrim groups from Korea and from Syria. Upon all of you I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Teachings of the Magisterium on Abortion

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