John Paul II Exhorts Youth to Counter Violence With Love

700,000 Attend Gathering in Madrid

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MADRID, Spain, MAY 4, 2002 ( John Paul II urged more than 700,000 young people to be «operators and architects of peace,» telling a rally that such a project begins with «inner conversion.»

«The spiral of violence, terrorism and war causes, even in our days, hatred and death,» the Pope said in his address Saturday to the huge gathering outside Madrid.

«Peace, we know, is above all a gift from on high which we must ask for with insistence and which, moreover, we must all construct through a profound inner conversion,» he said.

The Holy Father reiterated the appeal for peace, which he made a few hours earlier on his arrival in Spain: «Respond to blind violence and inhuman hatred with the fascinating power of love. Keep far away from every form of exasperated nationalism, racism and intolerance. Witness with your life that ideas are not imposed but proposed.»

The Pope called on young people to discover their vocation, especially the call to the priesthood.

«I wish to say to each one of you, young people: If you feel the call of God saying to you, ‘Follow me!’ do not silence it. Be generous, respond like Mary, offering to God the joyful yes of your person and your life,» he said.

«I give you my testimony,» the Pope added. «I was ordained a priest when I was 26 years old. Fifty-six years have passed since then. When looking back and recalling these years of my life, I can assure you that it is worthwhile to dedicate oneself to the cause of Christ.»

At another point, he referred to the need for a new evangelization in Europe.

«A Europe faithful to its Christian roots, not shut in on itself but open to dialogue and cooperation with the other peoples of the earth; a Europe conscious of being called to be a beacon of civilization and stimulus of progress for the world, determined to unite its efforts and creativity in the service of peace and solidarity among peoples,» the Pope stressed.

For John Paul II, «the tragedy of the present culture is the lack of inwardness, the absence of contemplation. Without inwardness, culture is lacking in the essential; it is like a body that is yet to find its soul.»

The Holy Father exhorted young people to «form part of the ‘school of the Virgin Mary.’ She is the unsurpassable model of contemplation and wondrous example of fruitful, joyful and enriching inwardness.»

In a relaxed atmosphere, the Holy Father did away with protocol on more than one occasion.

He spoke informally with young people, triggering repeated ovations, including «waves» among the thousands of participants, including some bishops.

The event lasted almost two hours longer than organizers expected.

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