Pope Exhorts Swiss to Recover Missionary Spirit

Urges the Faithful to Overcome Divisions

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BERN, Switzerland, JUNE 6, 2004 (Zenit.org).- At an open-air Mass that attracted 70,000 worshippers, John Paul II invited the Church in Switzerland to overcome the difficulties of the last decades and recover its missionary spirit.

The Eucharistic celebration today attracted 70,000 worshippers and culminated the Pope’s 32-hour pilgrimage to this country.

“The hour has arrived for preparing young generations of apostles who have no fear about proclaiming the Gospel,” the Holy Father said in his homily.

“For all the baptized it is essential to pass from a faith of custom to a mature faith, which is expressed in clear, convinced, valiant personal options,” he said.

These were key phrases he delivered during his 103rd international trip, undertaken despite his physical limitations. The previous evening he had met with a crowd of about 12,000 at a youth rally.

It marked John Paul II’s third trip to Switzerland, a country where the Church has been facing internal divisions and rising indifference to religion.

Because of immigration, Catholics now number about 3.5 million of the country’s 7.3 million people. Muslims account for about 5% of the population, and about 11% profess no faith, according to the Swiss Catholic agency APIC.

To those gathered for the Mass, the Pope asked: “What is the truth?” or rather, “Who is the truth?”

“That is the question posed by the man of the third millennium,” he said.

“We cannot silence the answer because we know it!” the Holy Father exclaimed. “The truth is Jesus Christ, come into the world to reveal to us and surrender to us the love of the Father. We are called to testify to this truth with our word and above all with our life!”

John Paul II called for a “missionary Church, freed of false fears, … sure of the Father’s love.”

This new thrust of the Church, he added, demands “living unity in its interior,” in order to “purify itself constantly of the poisons of egoism that produce jealousies, distrust, whims of self-affirmation [and] harmful clashes.”

The Pope returned to Rome later in the day.

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