POPE OPENS WYD IN PRESENCE OF 600,000 YOUNG PEOPLE
VATICAN CITY, AUG 15, 2000 (VIS) - This evening in Rome, John Paul II welcomed more than
400,000 young people from 157 countries who filled St. Peter's Square and the Via della
Conciliazione, inaugurating the 15th World Youth Day and the Jubilee of Young People. The Pope said, "dear friends
from the five continents, I am happy to inaugurate with you this evening the Jubilee of Young People."
While young Italian participants in WYD had gathered at St. John Lateran, the welcome ceremony at
St. Peter's was dedicated to young men and women from other countries. The two sites together held
an estimated total of 600,000 young people. At 6:55 p.m., at the conclusion of the event at St. John
Lateran, John Paul II crossed the center of Rome in popemobile, heading towards St. Peter's Square.
At around 7:15 p.m., the Pope's open-top vehicle entered the Via della Conciliazione, the great avenue
that runs from the River Tiber to the Vatican, to tumultuous applause from the largest group of young
people ever to gather in Rome. They filled both St. Peter's Square and the Via della Conciliazione and
were able to follow events at St. John Lateran, the Pope's journey across Rome and the ceremony in
the Vatican on giant television screens.
In his greeting, Cardinal James F. Stafford, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity asked for
the Pope's prayers "that your dear young people will emerge from this Jubilee pilgrimage with their
baptismal innocence renewed." A young woman from Korea and a young man from Guinea thanked
the Pope for the invitation to come to Rome, "the city that bears the trace of so many saints and
martyrs, where so many generations of Christians have lived their faith since the beginning of the
John Paul II extended greetings in Italian: "After stopping at the Basilica of St. John
Cathedral of Rome, to greet the young people of Rome and Italy, I welcome you with joy. The Roman
and Italian young people join me in offering you a most fraternal and heartfelt welcome.
"Your faces bring to mind, and in a way make present here, all the young people that it has been my
privilege to meet on my apostolic journeys throughout the world in these years at the end of the
millennium. To each of you I say: Peace be with you!"
The Pope then repeated his greetings and his wish for peace, continent by continent, naming the 157
countries that are represented in Rome over these days. "With special affection I greet the group of
young people from countries where hatred, violence and war bring suffering to the life of entire
populations. Thanks to the solidarity shown by all the youth here present, they have been able to come
here this evening. To them I say, in your name as well, that in our gathering we are close to them as
brothers and sisters; with all of you, I ask for them and for their people a time of peace in justice and
"I mention too the young people of other Churches and ecclesial communities who are here this
evening with some of their pastors: May the World Youth Day be another occasion for us to know
each other and to implore together from the Spirit of the Lord the gift of the perfect unity of all
"Dear friends from the five continents, I am happy to inaugurate with you this evening the Jubilee of
Young People. Pilgrims in the footsteps of the Apostles, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday, today and forever!"
Following a musical interlude and a Gospel reading, John Paul II addressed the young people,
mentioning his own spiritual formation and his priestly vocation: "I wish to bear witness to this faith
here before all of you, young friends, at the tomb of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord wished me
to succeed as Bishop of Rome. Beginning with myself, today I wish to tell you that I believe firmly in
Jesus Christ our Lord. Yes, I believe, and I make my own the words of the Apostle Paul: 'The life I
now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.'
"I remember how as a child, in my own family, I learned to pray and trust in God. I remember the life
of the parish that I attended, called after St. Stanislaus Kostka, in Debniki in Krakow. It was run by
the Salesian Fathers, from whom I received my basic training in Christian living. I cannot forget the
experience of the war and the years of work in a factory. My priestly vocation came to its full
maturity during the Second World War, during the occupation of Poland.
The tragedy of the war gave a particular coloring to the gradual
maturing of my vocation in life. In these circumstances, I perceived
a light shining ever more brightly within me: the Lord wanted me to
be a priest! I remember with feeling that moment in my life when, on
the morning of November 1 1946, I was ordained a priest.
My Credo continues in my present service to the Church. On October
16 1978, after my election to the See of Peter, when I was asked 'do
you accept?' I answered 'with obedience in faith to Christ, my Lord,
and trusting in the Mother of Christ and of the Church, no matter
what the difficulties, I accept.' From that time on, I have
tried to carry out my mission, drawing light and strength every day
from the faith that binds me to Christ.
"But my faith, like that of Peter and like the faith of each one of you, is not just my doing, my
attachment to the truth of Christ and the Church. It is essentially and primarily the work of the Holy
Spirit, a gift of His grace. The Lord gives His Spirit to me as He gives Him to you, to help us say: 'I
believe,' and then to use us to bear witness to Him in every corner of the world."
The Pope concluded by asking the young people that they convert these days into an experience of
prayer, "as though they were a great week of spiritual exercises; look for times of silence, prayer and
recollection. Ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten your minds, ask Him for the gift of a living faith which
will forever give meaning to your lives, joining them to Christ, the Word made flesh."