Pope John Paul II reflected on his June 5-6 visit to Switzerland during his general audience June 9 as he met with pilgrims who gathered in St. Peter's Square on the eve of the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
The main reason for his trip, the Holy Father said, was to be with the young people of Switzerland as they held their first national meeting and to deliver a message to them and to young people throughout the world.
“This message, which is so dear to my heart, can be summarized in three verbs: rise, listen and set out your way!” the Holy Father said. “Christ himself, who has risen and is alive, speaks these words to every young man and every young woman of our time.”
More than 45,000 young people from every corner of Switzerland gathered for the meeting.
During a Mass on June 6 for more than 70,000 people, the Pope renewed his call for Christian unity and for a missionary spirit.
“I renewed my appeal for unity among all Christians, inviting Catholics, first of all, to live out this unity among themselves in order to make the Church ‘the home and school of communion,’” the Holy Father said. “The Holy Spirit, who creates unity, also impels us to mission, so that we will proclaim and be witnesses to the truth of God and man, which is revealed in Christ, to everybody.”
Another highlight of his visit, John Paul said, was a meeting with former members of the Swiss Guard, who have served the Holy See for almost 500 years.
I have fond memories of different moments during my brief but intense stay in Switzerland last Saturday and Sunday, which God in his providence allowed me to experience once again.
Once again, I would like to thank my brother bishops and the civil authorities, especially the president of the Swiss Confederation, for warmly welcoming me and for all the work they did in preparation. I would also like to thank the Federal Council for its decision to elevate the rank of Switzerland's diplomatic representation to the Holy See.
I would also like to extend a word of profound gratitude to the Sisters of Charity of the Holy Cross, who offered me hospitality at their residence in Viktoriaheim. Finally, I would like to thank all those people who took care of the various aspects of my pastoral journey.
‘Rise, Listen, Set Out’
The main reason for my apostolic pilgrimage to that beloved nation was to meet with the Catholic youth of Switzerland, who held their first national meeting last Saturday. I thank the Lord for giving me the opportunity to experience a moment of great spiritual enthusiasm together with them and to deliver to this new generation of Swiss a message I would like to extend to all young people of Europe and throughout the world.
This message, which is so dear to my heart, can be summarized in three verbs: rise, listen and set out your way! Christ himself, who has risen and is alive, speaks these words to every young man and woman of our time. It is he who invites the youth of this third millennium to rise and, in doing so, give full meaning to their lives. I wanted to echo this cry, convinced that Christ alone, the redeemer of man, is able to help our young people to rise once again above any negative experience and any negative mentality and to grow to their full human stature, both spiritual and moral.
On Sunday morning, the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, I was able to concelebrate the Eucharist with the bishops and the many priests who came from every corner of Switzerland. This festive celebration took place at Allmend Park, a vast clearing in front of the BEA Bern Expo Palace. With one voice, we lifted up our praise and thanksgiving to the one, triune God for the beauty of creation, in which Switzerland is rich, and even more so for the communion of love of which he is the source.
Call to Christian Unity
In the light of this fundamental mystery of our Christian faith, I renewed my appeal for unity among all Christians, inviting Catholics, first of all, to live out this unity among themselves in order to make the Church “the home and school of communion” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, No. 43). The Holy Spirit, who creates unity, also impels us to mission, so that we will proclaim and be witnesses to everybody of the truth of God and man, which is revealed in Christ. Indeed, every man bears within him the imprint of the one, triune God and can find peace only in him.
Before leaving Bern, I was able to meet with the Association of Former Swiss Guards. It was a providential opportunity to thank them from the valuable service which the Swiss Guards have provided to the Holy See for almost five centuries. There are so many thousands of young men from Swiss families and parishes who have made a rather unique contribution to the Successor of Peter over the centuries! Those young men — like all young men, full of life and high ideals — have been able to show in this way their sincere love for Christ and for his Church. May the young people of Switzerland and of the entire world be able to discover the marvelous unity between faith and life and with enthusiasm prepare themselves to carry out the mission to which God is calling them!
May Mary Most Holy, whom I wholeheartedly thank for being able to make this 103rd apostolic journey, obtain for everyone this great and precious gift, which is the secret of true joy!