VATICAN CITY, APR 10, 2003 (VIS) - This afternoon, in a rain-soaked St. Peter's Square, thousands of young people from the diocese of Rome participated in a get-together with the Pope which included prayer and celebration in preparation for the 18th World Youth Day which will take place this Sunday.
Before the Pope's arrival, several youths offered testimony and sang.
Throughout his speech, John Paul II was interrupted many times by applause as he joked with the young people especially about the inclement weather. Referring to the theme of this year's World Youth Day, "Behold your Mother", the Holy Father said that "to welcome Mary in one's home, in one's life, is the privilege of every one of the faithful. Especially in difficult moments, which at times you young people experience in this period of your life."
"Today, for these reasons," he went on, "I entrust you to Mary. Dear young people, I tell you from experience, open the doors of your life to her! And do not be afraid to throw open the doors of your heart to Christ."
"I entrust you to Mary while you are already on your way to World Youth Day in Cologne" which will be celebrated in 2005. "I also would like for this World Youth Day to be prepared, starting today, with constant prayer which should be offered by the whole Church and, in particular, in Italy from four significant places: the Marian shrines of Loreto and Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii; here in Rome at the St. Lawrence Youth Center, ... and at the Church of St. Agnes in Agony."
The Pope indicated that "in this difficult moment in history, while terrorism and wars threaten harmony among men and religions, I wish to consecrate you to Mary so that you may be promoters of the culture of peace which today is more necessary than ever."
He then underscored that "tomorrow, April 11, is the 40th anniversary of the publication of Blessed John XXIII's Encyclical 'Pacem in terris'. By committing ourselves to building peace on the four pillars of truth, justice, love and freedom - as he taught us in 'Pacem in terris' - it will be possible to re-establish cooperation among nations and to harmonize the diverse and contrasting interests of cultures and institutions."
"In order to implore God for the gift of peace through prayer, I would like to give you a rosary this afternoon. ... Carry it with you at all times! The rosary, prayed with intelligent devotion, will help you to absorb the mystery of Christ in order to learn from Him the secret of peace and how to make it a life-long project." Each young person received a rosary as they entered St. Peters Square this afternoon.
In conclusion, the Holy Father performed a solemn act of consecration of the young people to Mary, during which the youth raised their rosaries in unison. He then blessed and handed out 18 rosaries to a group of young people from the 18 dioceses of the Italian region of Lazio, which includes the Pope's diocese of Rome.
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