MARCH 24 (EWTNews) In the open space of Korazin at the Mount of Beatitudes, Pope John Paul II began the fifth day of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land by coming to the green hills of Galilee, the heartland of Christ’s life and teachings, where the Apostles were called and the Gospels delivered. As the Pontiff said in his homily, " We sit on this hill like the first disciples and we listen to Jesus. Not far from this very place Jesus called his first disciples, as he calls you now."

Arriving in the popemobile among cheers of "Viva Baba" and "John Paul II, we love you!", the Pope joined the largest gathering ever held in Israel. Over 100,000 youth from the Middle East and around the world came to celebrate Mass at the same hillside where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. Joining the youth were 100 bishops and 1200 priests.

The Eucharistic celebration opened with the Pope kissing the Crucifix which dominated the stage. The Pope was warmly welcomed to Galilee by Archbishop Boutros Mouallem, the Greek Melchite bishop of Galilee. "We have only one hope, that the Pope who changed a lot in this world will help bring peace to these lands. Blessed are those who bring peace. We ask your blessings on all of us".

Then a young man from the Church of Jerusalem welcomed the Pope as the successor of the fisherman of Galilee who returns to his land.

The Pope then addressed the assembly as the new disciples who came to hear the words of the Gospel, still fresh and valid as it was pronounced on this mountain as the New Law of the New People of God.

After this introductory welcome and the penitential rite interspersed with the Gregorian Kyrie from the "Missa de Angelis", His Holiness intoned the glory which was sung in Arabic with a Latin refrain of "Gloria, Gloria in excelsis Deo". After the opening prayer, the first reading from prophet Zephonias was read in Italian. After the Responsorial psalm sung according to the Maronite rite, the second reading was read, being taken from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians (1:26-31). The Gospel was proclaimed according to the Greek Melchite rite that was introduced by a procession. Then the Melchite Bishop read the Gospel of Matthew (5:1-12).

The Holy Father began his homily asking the young people gathered to "consider your calling, brothers and sisters." He then went on to explain how the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes "offer the roadmap of our Christian life and a summary of our responsibilities to God and neighbor." Being aware of the challenges that tug at the heart of today’s youth "with a contradictory voice; a voice which seems to make sense", the Pope reminded the youth that "Christ’s call demands a choice between the two voices competing for your hearts." He said, "…even now on this hill, His call demands a choice between good and evil, between life and death." He then asked, "Which voice will the young people of the twenty-first century choose to follow?" With words of comfort, the Holy Father added, "Jesus does not stand by and leave you alone to face the challenge. He is always with you to transform your weakness into His strength. Trust Him."

"Jesus offers a very different message. He does not merely speak the Beatitudes. He lives the Beatitudes. He is the Beatitudes. This is why He has the right to say, ‘Come follow me!’ For two thousand years, Christ’s followers have carried out this mission. Now at the dawn of the Third Millennioum, it is your turn to go out into the world and preach the message of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes." He added that it is just as important for people of the twenty-first century to hear these Truths as it was for those of the first century.

In closing his homily, the Holy Father prayed, "O, Lord Jesus, you have made these young people your friends, keep them for ever close to you."

Afterwards, the Profession of Faith was chanted on the Gregorian melody and then prayer of the faithful was said during which prayers were offered for the Pope, leaders of the church, the poor of the world, for youth, leaders of the world, peace and for all those who suffer injustice. Then the offerings followed with the Eucharistic prayer and communion rite. At the end, after the closing prayer the Pope, in Italian, started to thank all those present especially the members of the Neo Catechumenal way inviting all to be witnesses and followers of the Gospel of the Beatitudes proclaimed by Jesus Christ. He repeated this message of hope in various languages including Hebrew and Arabic. He also appealed for peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

At the end of Mass, the Pope was presented with a tree for him to bless. In honor of Pope John Paul II and this historic occasion, the area in which today’s Mass was celebrated is being transformed into a forest and the blessed tree will be the first tree planted.