VATICAN CITY, JUNE 9, 2004 ( John Paul II hopes his visit to Switzerland will stimulate a new relationship between young people and the Church there, to recover ecclesial unity and boost ecumenical dialogue.

The Pope expressed this hope at today's general audience, which he dedicated to assess his visit last weekend to Bern. The Holy Father had said the principal motive for this trip was to join young Swiss Catholics in their first national meeting.

"I thank the Lord who gave me the opportunity to live with them a moment of great spiritual enthusiasm, and to propose to the new Swiss generations a message that I would like to extend to all the young people of Europe and the world," John Paul II said.

"This message, so dear to my heart, is summarized in three verbs: 'Rise!' 'Listen!' 'Follow him!' It is Christ himself, risen and alive, who repeats these words to every young man and young woman of our time," the Pope said.

"It is he who invites the youth of the third millennium to 'rise,' that is, to give full meaning to their lives," the Holy Father continued. "I wished to echo this appeal in the conviction that only Christ, Redeemer of man, can help youths to 'rise' from negative experiences and mentalities and to grow to their full human stature, spiritual and moral."

John Paul II then mentioned the Mass he celebrated in Allmend Field, attended by 70,000 people, which made it the largest religious event in the county's history.

"In the light of this fundamental mystery of the Christian faith, I renewed my appeal for Christian unity, inviting Catholics first of all to live it among themselves, making the Church 'the home and school of communion,'" he indicated.

Following the internal divisions that have marked the Catholic Church in Switzerland in recent decades, the Holy Father's visit was the first event that was able to bring the whole Church together in all its states of life, eliciting general surprise in the Swiss press, which is usually indifferent to the Pontiff.