(Vatican Radio) The Philippines is the country with more Catholics than any other across Asia, eighty- two million for the record. No wonder Pope Francis has chosen to meet with young people, the future of the country, in the nation’s capital Manila on Sunday 18th of January. He’s scheduled to do so at the stadium of the Pontifical and Royal University of Saint Thomas there, during a dedicated moment in which he will address the new generations together with their parents.
The last time a pope was here it was 1995 and young people were at the heart of this journey in terms of numbers as the event set a world record for the largest number of people gathered for a single religious celebration with five million people present. The pope you’ll have guessed was Saint John Paul II and the occasion was the 10th World Youth Day.
Listen to this sound picture relating to Saint John Paul II in a programme presented and produced by Veronica Scarisbrick:
Speaking to young people the Polish Pontiff used a beautiful image of continuity to inspire the millions of young people gathered around him for the occasion.
Two thousand years of Christianity he said, and the little community of the first disciples, like a tiny mustard seed has grown to be like a very big tree. This great tree he added, with its different branches, reaches all the continents, all the countries of the world, the great majority of which are represented here by the delegates.
John Paul II then addressed the Filipino young people using the image of this great tree: “On that tree, your country is an especially strong and healthy branch, stretching out to the whole vast continent of Asia. In the shade of this tree, in the shade of its branches and leaves, the people of the world can find rest. They can gather under its welcoming shade to discover, as you have been doing here during the World Youth Day, the marvelous truth which is at the centre of our faith: that the Eternal Word, of one being with the Father, through whom all things were made, became flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary.
He dwelt among us.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace (cf. Jn., prologue).
Through prayer and meditation, this evening Vigil is meant to help you to realize more clearly what the extraordinary "Good News" of salvation through Jesus Christ means for your lives. The "Good News" is for everyone. That is why the World Youth Day is held in different places.
It was a moment of dialogue during which Saint John Paul deployed his characteristic ability to successfully communicate with the young: " My question is directed to each one of you personally. Are you capable of giving of your self, your time, your energies,your talents for the good of others? Are you capable of love? We love you, I love you, the Church and society can expect great things from each one of you if you are capable of love!"
And on Sunday January 18th while in Manila Pope Francis will surely enjoy the same success when he speaks to young people twenty years on. Certainly no one doubts his natural ease when it comes to communicating with people.
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