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Palm Sunday 1997 & 12th World Youth Day

XII World Youth Day was celebrated with Pope St John Paul II on Palm Sunday in St Peter's Square and internationally in August in Paris, France.

XIII WYD Message: Teacher, where are you staying? Come and see. (Jn 1, 38-39)

Pope St John Paul II's Homily at Mass on Palm Sunday
St Peter's Square, 23rd March 1997 - English, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.... Hosanna in the highest!” (Mk 11:9-10).

These acclamations of the crowd gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover accompany the entry of Christ and the Apostles into the holy city. Jesus enters Jerusalem mounted on a colt, according to the words of the prophet: “Tell the Daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass” (Mt 21:5).

The animal chosen indicates that it was not a triumphal entry, but that of a king meek and humble of heart. However the multitudes gathered in Jerusalem, almost unaware of this expression of humility or perhaps recognizing in it a messianic sign, greet Christ with words full with joy: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mt 21:9). And when Jesus enters Jerusalem, the whole city is in agitation. People are asking themselves, “‘Who is this?’ And the crowds [say], ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee’” (Mt 21:10-11).

This was not the first time that the people recognized Christ as the king they expected. It had already happened after the miraculous multiplication of the loaves, when the crowd wanted to carry him in triumph. Jesus knew however that his kingdom was not of this world; for this reason he had fled from their enthusiasm. He now sets out for Jerusalem to face the trial that awaits him. He is aware that he is going there for the last time, for a “holy” week, at the end of which the passion, cross and death await him. He faces all this with complete willingness, knowing that in this way the Father’s eternal plan will be fulfilled in him.

Since that day, the Church throughout the world has repeated the words of the crowd in Jerualem: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. She repeats it every day while celebrating the Eucharist, shortly before the consecration. She repeats it with particular emphasis today, Palm Sunday.

2. The liturgical readings present the suffering Messiah to us. They refer first of all to his sufferings and his humiliation. The Church proclaims the Gospel of the Lord’s passion according to one of the Synoptics; the Apostle Paul, instead, in his Letter to the Philippians, offers us a marvellous synthesis of the mystery of Christ, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (2:6-11).

This hymn of inestimable theological value presents a complete synthesis of Holy Week, from Palm Sunday through Good Friday to the Sunday of the Resurrection. These words from the Letter to the Philippians, progressively repeated in an ancient responsory, will accompany us throughout the Triduum Sacrum.

St Paul's text contains the announcement of the resurrection and glory, but the Liturgy of the Word for Palm Sunday concentrates primarily on the passion. Both the first reading and the responsorial psalm speak of it. In the text, which is part of the so-called “songs of the Servant of Yahweh”, the moment of his scourging and his crowning with thorns are sketched out; in the psalm the painful agony of Christ on the cross is described with impressive realism: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps 22 [21]:2).

These words, the most disturbing, the most moving, uttered from the cross at the time of his agony, today resound in loud, obvious antithesis to that “Hosanna”, which also re-echoes during the procession with palms.

3. For several years Palm Sunday has become the great world day of youth. It was the young people themselves who paved the way for it: from the beginning of my ministry in the Church of Rome, on this day thousands of them have met in St Peter’s Square. Over the years, the World Youth Days have grown out of this event, whose celebration has spread throughout the Church, in parishes, in Dioceses, and every two years in a place chosen for the whole world. Since 1984, these world meetings have been held at two-year intervals: in Rome; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago de Compostela, Spain; Czêstochowa-Jasna Góra, Poland; Denver, the United States; and Manila, the Philippines. Next August the meeting has been set for Paris, France.

 This is why last year during the celebration of Palm Sunday, representatives of young people from the Philippines handed over to their French peers the pilgrim cross of “World Youth Day”. This act has its own particular eloquence: it is a rediscovery as it were by young people of the significance of Palm Sunday, when they in effect take the lead. The liturgy recalls that “pueri hebraeorum, portantes ramos olivarum...”, “the children of Jerusalem ... carried olive branches and loudly praised the Lord: Hosanna in the highest” (Antiphon).

It can be said that the first “World Youth Day” occurred precisely in Jerusalem, when Christ entered the holy city; from year to year we are linked with that event. The place of the “pueri hebraeorum” has been taken by young people of various languages and races. All, like their predecessors in the Holy Land, want to accompany Christ, to share in the week of his Passion, of his Triduum Sacrum, of his Cross and Resurrection. They know that he is that “Blessed” One who “comes in the name of the Lord”, bringing peace on earth and glory in the highest. What the angels sang above the stable in Bethlehem on Christmas night, today resounds with a loud echo on the threshold of Holy Week, in which Jesus prepares to complete his messianic mission, achieving the world’s redemption through his Cross and Resurrection.

Glory to you, O Christ, Redeemer of the world! Hosanna!"

Papa San Giovanni Paolo II's words at the Angelus in St Peter's Square
Palm Sunday, 23rd March 1997 - in English, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. At the start of spring those who are in the “springtime of life”, today, Palm Sunday, are celebrating the One who is the Life, Jesus Christ, because he alone has the words of eternal life and can transform all of life into springtime.

From 19 to 24 August next, young people from Ecclesial Communities throughout the world have been given an appointment in Paris to continue their great pilgrimage across the globe. The last, unforgettable stop took place in January 1995 in Manila. Dear young people, let us walk together on this pilgrimage of faith and hope, carrying the Cross of Christ, sign of the Love that saves the world.

See you in Paris!

2. Quelques mois seulement nous séparent des Journées Mondiales de la Jeunesse qui se dérouleront du 19 au 24 août. Jeunes de tous les continents réunis sur cette place et vous tous qui m'écoutez à la radio ou à la télévision, je vous invite à vous rendre en France et à Paris pour ces Journées. D'ici là, n'hésitez pas à poser au Christ la question des disciples, dans l'Évangile de saint Jean: "Maître, où demeures-tu?" (Jn 1, 38). Avec vos camarades d'autres nations et d'autres cultures, venez recevoir la réponse que vous transmettront les Successeurs des Apôtres, vos Évêques: "Viens et tu verras" (Jn 1, 46). Avec le Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, Archevêque de Paris, avec les Évêques et toute l'Église en France qui se prépare à vous accueillir, je vous attends et je vous dis: prenez les moyens d'entrer dans le troisième millénaire en fils et en filles de Dieu!

3. I greet the English-speaking young people here today. May this Holy Week and Easter be for you a time of profound conversion. May the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord lead each one of you to genuine commitment and joyful generosity in living your faith. I look forward to seeing many of you in Paris! God be with you.

4. Saludo a los jóvenes de España y América Latina. Os invito a que, en comunión con todo el pueblo de Dios que camina hacia el Jubileo del Año 2000, fijéis la mirada en Jesús, Maestro y Señor de la vida, según las palabras del Evangelio: "Maestro, ¿dónde vives? Venid y lo veréis" (cf. Jn 1, 38-39). También os convoco a participar en la próxima Jornada Mundial de la Juventud, que celebraremos en París el mes de agosto.

En vuestro camino de fe, queridos jóvenes, os acompaña siempre mi afecto y Bendición.

5. Mit großer Freude begrüße ich die Pilger und Besucher aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache, insbesondere Euch, liebe Jugendliche, die Ihr zum Weltjugendtag nach Rom gekommen seid. Gleichzeitig lade ich Euch sehr herzlich zum Weltjugendtreffen nach Paris ein, wo wir uns am 24. August 1997 zum gemeinsamen Gottesdienst versammeln werden.

6. Dear young people, on our journey of faith we have an incomparable guide: Mary. Let us entrust to her the itinerary for our meeting in Paris. May the Blessed Virgin help us all, especially young people, to answer generously Christ’s invitation: “Come and follow me”."

Pubblichiamo di seguito una nostra traduzione italiana del saluto pronunciato in lingua polacca da Giovanni Paolo II:

Saluto cordialmente i giovani provenienti da tutti i paesi slavi e dalla Polonia. Invito anche tutti voi a questo grande incontro - la giornata dei giovani di tutto il mondo a Parigi - dove vi aspettano gli ospitali Vescovi francesi ed i vostri coetanei, anch'essi molto ospitali. A tutti i presenti e a tutti nella Patria auguro una Settimana Santa e una Domenica di Risurrezione benedette. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

I wish everyone here and everyone in the homeland a blessed Holy Week and Easter Sunday. Praised be Jesus Christ!"