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Palm Sunday 2005 & 20th World Youth Day

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

XX WYD Message: “We have come to worship him” (Mt 2, 2)

At the end of the solemn celebration of Palm Sunday and Passion of the Lord celebrated by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Pope St John Paul II appeared at his window in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with the faithful and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for the customary Sunday appointment. Here are the words of the Pope before the Marian prayer, read by the Deputy Secretary of State, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri:

Papa St John Paul II's Message at the Angelus in St Peter's Square
20 March 2005 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

Dearest Brothers and Sisters,
1. I greet you with great joy at the end of the solemn Palm Sunday celebration, and I thank Cardinal Camillo Ruini who has presided at it in my name.

20 years ago, right in this Square, the World Youth Days were initiated. Because of this, I address today in a particular way the young people: you who are present here, dear friends, and those in every part of the world.

2. Dearest young people! the World Youth Meeting in Cologne, in the heart of Germany and Europe, will be taking place this coming August. In that city's marvellous cathedral the relics of the Holy Magi are venerated, so that in a certain sense they have become your guides on the way to that event. They came from the East to pay homage to Jesus and declared: "We... have come to worship him" (Mt 2: 2). These words, so rich in meaning, are the theme of your spiritual and catechetical journey towards World Youth Day.

Today, you adore the Cross of Christ, which you carry across the world, because you have believed in the love of God that was revealed in the crucified Christ.

3. Dearest young people! I realize more and more how providential and prophetic it was that this very day, Palm Sunday and the Passion of the Lord, should have become your Day. This feast possesses a special grace, that of joy united to the Cross, which in itself sums up the Christian mystery.

Today, I tell you: continue unflaggingly on the journey on which you have set out in order to be witnesses everywhere of the glorious Cross of Christ. Do not be afraid! May the joy of the Lord, crucified and Risen, be your strength, and may Mary Most Holy always be beside you.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar of His Holiness for the Diocese of Rome, presided over the solemn celebration of Palm Sunday and Passion of the Lord on behalf of the Holy Father Blessed John Paul II (who followed the celebration from his apartment and from his window overlooking the Square). Cardinal Ruini blessed the palms and olive trees, and celebrated the Mass of the Lord's Passion.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini's Homily
20th March 2005 - in English, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

Dear Brothers and Sisters, the account of the Lord's Passion touches and moves our hearts, our faith and our capacity for loving.

We are first aware of a stark contrast: the Gospel read immediately after the blessing of the branches speaks to us of a festive crowd, crying: "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!". In the Passion narrative, however, another crowd, the majority of whom were the same people of Jerusalem, cried: "Crucify him!". We do not have far to look to discover the reason for this contrast. It suffices to look within ourselves. The Prophet Jeremiah had already warned: "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately corrupt. Who can understand it?" (Jer 17: 9). The betrayal by Judas and also by Peter show how great this human untrustworthiness is.

The contrast between the crowd that acclaims Jesus and the crowd that clamours for the crucifixion and, more generally, the frailness and susceptibility of human hearts, is only one dimension of the Lord's Passion and not the deepest. We find its fullest meaning in the Apostle Paul's words that we heard in the Second Reading: "Though he was in the form of God, [he] did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave.... He was known to be of human estate, and it was thus that he humbled himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross" (Phil 2: 6-8). Furthermore, in his Second Letter to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul tells us how effective the Son of God's humiliation of himself has been for us: "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (II Cor 5: 21).

Thus, it is precisely the humiliation, suffering and death of the Son of God that shed light on the mystery of God, but also on the mystery of man. Indeed, if we look at the many human sufferings, especially the suffering of the innocent, we are as it were bewildered and prompted to ask ourselves whether God loves us and takes care of us or whether, by chance, an evil destiny exists that not even God can change.

In the Cross of Christ, on the other hand, we come into contact with the true face of God, in the words of Jesus himself who tells us, "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Mt 11: 27). In the Cross of Christ, in fact, the face of God does not lose its greatness and mystery, but becomes extraordinarily close and friendly, because it is the Face of the One who, in his own Son, shares to the very end even the darkest side of the human condition.

Therefore, from the Cross of Christ, strength and the hope of redemption shine out over all human suffering; thus, the drama and mystery of suffering - which are basically the drama and mystery of our lives - are not eliminated but no longer appear to us as something obscure and absurd.

Of course, before the crucified Jesus, any claim of our own to innocence, any ambition to be able to build a just and perfect world with our own hands, fails. While we recognize that we are weak and sinful, we feel embraced and sustained by the love of God which is stronger than sin and death, and we become capable of discovering, even in the small events of our daily lives, a meaning that is extraordinarily rich and full, for it is destined not to fade with the passing of time but to bear fruit for eternity.

Dear brothers and sisters, and especially you, dear young people who are celebrating World Youth Day, the Lord Jesus has not hidden from us the fact that his Cross also concerns us, that to be his disciples we are called to make room for him in our lives: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mt 16: 24). These words are understandably frightening; indeed, they are especially frightening to us, people of our time who are led to see suffering only as something that is useless and harmful. Yet this is our mistake and it prevents us not only from understanding the importance of suffering, but also the meaning of life.

Before the crucified Jesus let us also remember something else that he said: "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.... For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Mt 11: 28-30). Yes, the Cross of Jesus does not discourage or weaken us. On the contrary, from the Cross springs energy that is ever new, that shines in the feats of the saints and has made the Church's history fruitful, the energy that is particularly radiant today on the tired face of the Holy Father.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us therefore trust in the crucified and Risen Lord and put our life in his hands, just as he put his own life in the hands of God the Father (cf. Lk 23: 46).