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Pope St John Paul II's Apostolic Visit to Fiji

21st - 22nd November 1986

Saint John Paul II was a pilgrim to Fiji on his 32nd apostolic voyage, during which he also visited Bangladesh, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia & Seychelles.

After the welcome ceremony, Papa John Paul II celebrated Mass in Suva, before meeting with the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific. The following morning JPII met with young people at the farewell ceremony in Nadi.

Pope St John Paul II's address at the Welcome Ceremony
Suva, Friday 21st November 1986 - in English & Italian

"Your Excellency the Governor-General, Mr Prime Minister,
Distinguished Members of the Government, My venerable brother Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Dear People of Fiji,
1. I stand before you with sentiments of joy and profound gratitude to Almighty God for the privilege of being with you today in Fiji. To all of you I offer my heartfelt greetings of peace.

My purpose in coming is in the first place religious. I have come as Pastor of the Catholic Church to confirm my brothers and sisters in their faith, but I also wish my visit to serve the spiritual good and progress of all the people of your nation.

I am pleased to be able to admire the beauty of your homeland, and I thank you for your very hospitable welcome. As I see your faces, I acknowledge the greatness of our God who has created each one of you as a special reflection of his love. It is my earnest hope to speak to you about the mystery of God’s love, and to ask you to respond to your great vocation of loving your neighbour as yourself.

2. I thank you, Your Excellency the Governor-General, for your kind words of welcome. I cordially reciprocate the expression of respect and esteem with which, on behalf of your people, you have welcomed me. Your words are a fitting confirmation of the friendly cooperation, dialogue and mutual understanding which have characterized diplomatic relations between Fiji and the Holy See from their beginning. I am also pleased to greet the Prime Minister and the members of the Government, the Diplomatic Corps represented here, and all the citizens of this country.

In particular I offer cordial greetings to the representatives of the Church in Fiji, especially to Archbishop Petero Mataca of Suva, who is also President of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific. With him I also greet all my brother bishops of the Pacific. I wish to express my deep affection and esteem for you and all the clergy, religious and laity of the Church in Fiji and the other islands of the Pacific.

I wish to greet in the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ all the members of the other Christian Communions represented here today. As you are no doubt aware, one of the major aims of my Pontificate is to work for the realization of the unity for which Jesus prayed at the Last Supper: "that they may all be one". I am pleased to acknowledge the contributions to evangelization in the Pacific that have been made by different Christian Communions. It is my fervent hope that all the Christians of these islands will continue along the path towards full unity in faith in Christ.

I also acknowledge with respect the presence here of other world religions. To their representatives I offer my cordial greetings and I assure them of my friendship.

3. By coming to Fiji I hope to encourage all Christians here and throughout the Pacific to dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. At the heart of the Gospel is the Lord’s command of self-giving love. I trust that my visit will offer Christians an opportunity to dedicate themselves anew to obeying this commandment of love, especially through service and compassion for the less fortunate, the poor, the sick and all those in need. I shall speak about this again at the Mass later today.

4. I am happy to acknowledge in a particular way the statement of warm welcome that was prepared by the Methodist Church in Fiji. I am deeply touched, dear brethren, by your demonstration of brotherhood. May my visit help to promote even greater understanding between all fellow Christians. May my visit help to spread the message of the Gospel.

5. In a world of increasing challenges from secularization and materialism, I invite all my brothers and sisters in the Christian faith to respond with ever more intense love to the Lord’s call to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. It is also my prayer that people of all religions and all people of good will renew their human solidarity in the cause of peace. On my part I invoke upon all the people of Fiji the blessings of full and lasting peace.

Once more I thank you, Your Excellency, and all those who together with you have honoured me by their presence. "May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with you all" (2 Ts 3, 16)."

Homily of Pape St Jean Paul II at Holy Mass in Suva
Friday 21st November 1986 - in English & Italian

"This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you".

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. It is a great joy for me to be with you today in Suva. I wish to express my cordial greetings to the citizens of the whole nation of Fiji, a multiracial, multicultural and multi-religious society.

Fiji - an archipelago of two main islands and several hundred smaller ones, a "crossroads" in the blue Ocean of the South Pacific where the paths of the Melanesian and Polynesian migration meet - is beautiful both in its natural scenery and in you, its people.

From time immemorial you have been a religious people, particularly concerned with nature and conscious of the value of the community. Your social awareness is seen in the way that the different races, cultures and religions live together in harmony without losing their own identity. I encourage you to continue to pursue the paths of creative dialogue and mutual understanding. And may you always cherish your own particular cultural values and customs as a means of enriching one another.

2. Today I have come here in order to proclaim in your presence what the Lord Jesus said to his disciples: "This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you." Our faithfulness to this commandment to love one another as the Lord has loved us is the best way we can live our dedication to the Lord.

In order to reflect upon this theme, "Dedication to the Lord", let us turn our attention to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is our Mother in the order of grace. In a special way Mary fulfilled the Lord’s command to love, and as a result she gives us the perfect example.

Let us listen again to Mary’s Song of Praise as recorded in Saint Luke’s Gospel, for there is no more eloquent expression of Mary’s love:

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, For he has looked upon his servant in her lowliness; henceforth all ages shall call me blessed. The Almighty has done great things for me, holy is his name."

More than any other person, Mary was aware of God’s love for her, of all the great things that the Lord had done for her. Mary’s life was a response to God’s love. She was the lowly handmaid of the Lord who gave herself without reserve to the love of God and neighbour.

In the Scriptures we find Mary ready to do the Lord’s will even when it is difficult and mysterious. In the Gospel of Luke we hear Mary called blessed by Elizabeth, for she "trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled". We can see in the events of Mary’s life how she devoted herself unceasingly to the will of God the Father and to the mission of her Son. She was always willing to offer herself as a gift of love, while "she served on earth as the loving mother of the divine Redeemer, an associate of unique nobility, and the Lord’s humble handmaid".

Her dedication to the Lord is shown at the moment of the Annunciation in the poverty of Bethlehem, in the anxiety of the flight into Egypt, in the humble and hard-working life of Nazareth, and finally in Jerusalem, both on the sorrowful way to Calvary, and at the foot of the Cross, where she offered herself in union with the Sacrifice of her Son. Even after her Son’s glorious Resurrection, Mary continues to devote herself to the Father’s will and to her Son’s mission, as she perseveres in prayer with the other women and the Apostles as they await the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

In the words of the Second Vatican Council, we can say by way of summary: "In an utterly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Saviour’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls".

3. On a certain occasion during our Lord’s public ministry, his Mother and other relatives approached him while he was addressing the crowds. Upon hearing that they wished to speak to him, Jesus asks: " ‘Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?’ Then, turning to his disciples, he says: ‘These are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is brother and sister and mother to me."

These words of Jesus in response to his Mother are meant to explain that our relationship to him is a spiritual one, not dependent on a family tie. What matters for us is to do the Father’s will. Mary understands this truth very well, and the words of her Son only confirm her resolve to devote herself with greater love to accomplishing the Father’s will even when this means sacrifice. Thus Mary teaches us that true love for God the Father and for Jesus his Son always consists in perfect conformity to the divine will.

Mary’s readiness to dedicate herself to the Lord finds its most profound expression at the moment of the Annunciation, when in response to the angel’s message she declares: "I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to thy word".

We can say that it is through Mary’s total self-offering at the moment of the Annunciation that she becomes our model, our guide and our Mother. The Second Vatican Council highlights this fact when it teaches that: "Mary’s maternity in the order of grace began with the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross. This maternity will last without interruption until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect".

In the Gospel to which we have just listened, Jesus assures each of us of his love. He says: "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Live on in my love". We must keep reminding ourselves of this fundamental truth that the Lord loves us in a special way. We must often repeat the words of the Psalmist: "Strong is the Lord’s love for us; he is faithful forever". The Lord’s love is real for each of you here in Fiji and the whole Pacific. This love is personal and unconditional, and it is clearly seen in the many ways in which he has blessed you. His love is the source of your strength. And you are called upon each day of your lives to respond to this love of the Lord, just as Mary did.

4. In today’s Gospel, when Jesus tells us to love one another as he loves us, he also says: “All this I tell you that my joy may be yours and your joy may be complete”. We must understand that in order to love as Jesus does we must offer to others the gift of ourselves. And it is only in the giving of ourselves through charity, service and compassion that we can experience true joy. Faithfulness to the Lord’s command to love one another as he has loved us brings us a share in the joy of the Lord now and forever.

5. Our Lord’s own life illustrates the words which he speaks to us today: "There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends". Following the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose life was a fragrant offering of love, you are invited to live your lives out of love for others in imitation of the Lord Jesus, who first laid down his life in love for you. Your dedication to the Lord and to his command of love assures you of his friendship, for in today’s Gospel Jesus repeats: "You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer speak of you as slaves, for a slave does not know what his master is about. Instead, I call you friends, since I have made known to you all that I heard from my Father".

My dear brothers and sisters: all of you have been chosen by the Lord, just as Mary was. May you respond wholeheartedly and generously to the Lord’s call to embrace a life of service for others.

In the Letter to the Colossians that has just been read to us Saint Paul writes: "Because you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you. Over all these virtues put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect".

In this passage Saint Paul is clearly referring to the fact that we are God’s chosen ones, and so he exhorts us to bear with one another, to forgive any grievances we have against one another, and in obedience to the Lord’s command to love one another.

6. The history of the beginning of the Church in Oceania offers us an inspiring example of dedication to the Lord and of that selfgiving love" to lay down one’s life for one’s friends". I am referring to the heroic witness and martyrdom of Saint Peter Chanel, the Marist Father who came from France as one of the first missionaries to proclaim the Gospel of Christ in Western Oceania. In the face of great difficulties he laboured with profound faith, patience and fortitude. After many hardships and seeming failure, Peter Chanel became the first martyr of Oceania. He laid down his life for the sake of the Gospel, and his selfless dedication to the Lord bore great fruit when in 1843 all the inhabitants of Futuna were converted to Christ.

The Church in Fiji itself can be traced to the arrival in 1844 of Peter Chanel’s Marist colleagues from France. With immense gratitude to the Lord, I praise the many generations of missionaries who over the last 150 years have followed in the footsteps of St Peter Chanel and have laboured for the spread of the Gospel in Oceania. The vitality of the Church today is linked to the generosity of their lives.

The present Archdiocese of Suva, erected in 1966, and the regional seminary of the Pacific established under the patronage of St Peter Chanel, are a testimony to the Church’s growth here and throughout Oceania. By the grace of God, the spirit of sacrifice and dedication to the Lord shown by past generations is being continued by the clergy, religious and laity of today. We can see proofs of this dedication in the Catholic schools, in the hospitals, especially Makogai, in the help given to the homeless and the unemployed and to all those in great need. I call upon all of you to keep up your wholehearted service to the Lord, especially in the poorest of your brothers and sisters. May the memory of the heroic missionaries inspire many young men today to dedicate themselves to the Lord in the priesthood and inspire other young men and women to aspire to the religious life; may this memory sustain all the People of God in their vocation to holiness.

7. Dearly beloved in Christ: always be mindful of your Baptism, and know that God has chosen you to share in his Son’s mission. Your vocation is to follow Jesus and to obey his word. Saint Paul says: "Let the Word of Christ, rich as it is, dwell in you. In wisdom made perfect, instruct and admonish one another".

You can be sure that the word of Christ dwelling in your hearts will bear abundant fruit, especially in acts of mercy and compassion. When he tells his disciples to love one another, Jesus emphasizes that he has chosen them and not the other way round, and that they are to go forth and bear fruit: "It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit. Your fruit must endure, so that all you ask the Father in my name he will give you".

The Lord’s command of love has been proclaimed to the people of Fiji from the arrival of the first Christian missionaries. I invite all of you to become more aware of Christ’s call to spread the Gospel to others as well as to pray and work together for Christian unity. I encourage you in your esteem and friendship for your Hindu and Muslim brethren, so that respectful dialogue may bring about better mutual understanding.

It is my fervent prayer that my pastoral visit to Fiji will help you to dedicate yourselves ever more to doing the Father’s will and to sharing in the mission of his Son. For this reason:

I call upon you to love one another as Jesus has commanded.
I call upon you to renew your efforts to appreciate and respect each other’s cultural diversity.
I call upon you to show special concern for the poor and those who are pushed to the margins of society.
I call upon you to work for a more just society, in which wealth will be more equally divided and in which it will be possible for all to live a life in keeping with their human dignity.
I call upon you to give your prayerful support to Archbishop Petero Mataca as he proclaims to you the Gospel of salvation.
I call upon you especially, the young people, to respond to the Lord’s love and to share his joy with others.
I call upon you who are sick to offer your sufferings for the growth of the Kingdom of God.
And I commend all of you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the perfect example of dedication to the Lord, the Mother of him who says: "This is my commandment: Love one another as I have loved you". Amen."

The Holy Father then spoke in French to the pilgrims from Tahiti and other islands in the Pacific:

"Je suis heureux de saluer les pèlerins de Tahiti, avec leur Archevêque, Mgr Michel Coppenrath, les pèlerins des Iles Marquises, de Vanuatu, de Wallis et Futuna.

Chers frères et sœurs de langue française, dispersés dans ces Iles, demeurez fidèles à votre foi catholique qui s’est épanouie merveilleusement depuis cent cinquante ans, et qui s’exprime selon vos cultures locales et la culture française. Soutenez-vous dans la prière, dans l’amour fraternel, dans l’édification d’une Eglise vivante et rayonnante, unie avec son Evêque. Soyez des artisans de paix. Approfondissez votre foi, pour bien la transmettre aux jeunes générations et devenir vous-mêmes missionnaires. Restez ouverts aux autres Eglises locales du Pacifique comme à celle de la France. Sans pouvoir me rendre chez vous, je connais votre vitalité et vos besoins, et je demeure proche de vous par le cœur et par la prière. En vous bénissant, je bénis aussi vos familles et notamment ceux qui sont dans l’épreuve. Que le Seigneur vous accorde de vivre dans la paix et vous comble de ses Bénédictions!"

JPII's address to the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific
Pacific Regional Seminary of St Peter Chanel, Suva, Fiji, 21 November 1986 - in English & Italian

"Dear brother Bishops of the Pacific,
1. It is a great joy for me to be with you here in the Pacific Regional Seminary of Saint Peter Chanel. You have received me in a most cordial spirit of fraternal love. With a grateful heart, I greet you in the grace and peace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. You have come from all the particular Churches of this immense territory of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia, to celebrate with me the unity and universality of the Church and to manifest your loyalty and love for the Successor of Peter. I am deeply grateful to each one of you.

As bishops, you represent in your own persons the People of God of the archdioceses of Suva, Agaña, Papeete, Nouméa, and Samoa-Apia and Tokelau, and the dioceses of Port-Vila, Tonga, Wallis and Futuna, Taiohae, Samoa-Pago Pago Chalan Kanoa, Rarotonga, Tarawa and Nauru, Carolines-Marshalls and the Mission Sui iuris of Funafuti. The name of each of these local Churches speaks of God’s providential love, incarnated in a particular culture and people, in the lives of the clergy, religious and laity to whom you give a shepherd’s care.

All of us remember the question that Nathanael put to Philip: "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip simply replied: "Come and see". Very soon, after asking that question, Nathanael would indeed begin to see what incredible good could come from Nazareth.

Each of the local Churches which you serve in Christ’s name represents in its own particular way the mystery of Nazareth. For the Risen Saviour is living today in your faithful people. By visiting Fiji I have been able to come and see what incredible good can come from the Body of Christ in Oceania. I rejoice in this opportunity of celebrating with you the marvels God has done and is doing in this part of the world.

I also wish to take this occasion to thank you for helping some of your own people to come here to Suva today or to be with me in the days ahead in New Zealand or Australia. I am sorry that I cannot visit each of your local communities on this occasion, but I assure you that you are all very dear to the heart of the Pope. I look forward, with the help of God, to coming and seeing the Holy Spirit at work in your midst at some time in the future.

2. Sixteen years ago, Pope Paul VI visited this part of the world. Some of you would have been present on that historic occasion when, in Western Samoa, he made a missionary appeal to the whole world. In honour of my beloved predecessor and in view of the continued relevance of his words, may I remind you of the exhortation he made at that time to continue zealously the work of evangelization. He stated: "Missionary work, in the name of which I am among you, began on the day of Pentecost and is still being carried on in our own day. It is always necessary and always urgent."

The Church is by nature missionary. In every age, she feels herself urged on by the words of our Saviour: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations." The Church in Oceania eloquently shows the fruit of this evangelizing spirit. Evangelization is the task of everyone in the Church, although the bishops have the specific role of overseeing its broad range of activities and coordinating the efforts of all. The bishops have laboured long and hard in proclaiming the Gospel. The Good News of Christ has been accepted in faith and gratitude, and the Church has been firmly planted in your midst.

The next stage, which is no less urgent, is the consolidation and deepening of the faith. Ever more effective means must be sought to transmit to everyone, but especially to the young, the teachings of overseeing its broad range of activities and coordinating the efforts of all. The bishops have laboured long and hard in proclaiming the Gospel. The Good News of Christ has been accepted in faith and gratitude, and the Church has been firmly planted in your midst.

3. In this regard, I wish to congratulate you, as I have already done on other occasions, on the establishment of this regional seminary of the Pacific. It fills my heart with joy to hear that the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life is growing year by year. I know that, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, this increase is due in no small part to your own zealous efforts as shepherds of the flock of Christ.

I am pleased, too, that the promotion of priestly vocations and the support of this regional seminary have been marked by true collaboration. Thus you have indeed borne witness to the collegial nature of the episcopal ministry in your work to ensure a more effective programme of priestly formation for all your particular Churches.

I would ask you always to maintain this interest in the seminary and particularly in the seminarians, through personal contact and fatherly concern. It is important that all aspects of seminary training should lead young men to a greater knowledge and love of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I encourage you to continue in the vital task of promoting vocations to the priesthood and to religious life. The future of the Church depends in great part upon the evangelical witness and generous service of priests and religious. In particular, I encourage you in your pastoral solicitude to reach out to the young people of your parishes and communities. My prayer is that you will witness such a flowering of vocations in your midst that, in the not too distant future, the Churches which have been established by missionaries will in turn be sending forth missionaries to other nations.

4. As I meet with you this evening, I would like to reflect for a moment on the lives of two celebrated saints of the Church: Peter Chanel, the great Patron of Oceania, who in 1836 set sail from France to bring the Gospel to this part of the world; and Augustine, the bishop and theologian whose 16th centenary of conversion we commemorate this year. These two men, of very different temperaments and abilities, who served the Church in widely differing historical and geographical situations, were nonetheless motivated and sustained by the same love for Christ and zeal for the Gospel.

It is fitting that the universal Church should honour Augustine in this anniversary year of his conversion. He is truly one of the greatest bishops and teachers in the history of Christianity. In every way, he placed his intellectual gifts and spiritual energy at the service of the Church: in the particular Church of Hippo where he was renowned for his catechetical initiatives, his fraternal support of priests and religious, his rousing homilies and instructions, his loving care for the poor; in the Church throughout North Africa and in the universal Church as she faced division and confusion due to heretical movements and paganism.

Even today, in the modern technological world so different from his own, Augustine remains an inspiring model of episcopal ministry. He described himself in these words: "Christ’s servant, and through him the servant of his servants". Surely we could find no better motto for our own lives as bishops of the Church. But perhaps what is most memorable about Augustine and most worthy of our imitation is precisely his conversion. He was the great convert, not just at one dramatic moment but throughout his life. As he once said: "We must be always made by God, always perfected, we must cling to him and remain in the conversion that brings us to him... For we are his creation, not only in that we are human persons, but also in that we are good human persons."

As bishops, we too like Augustine must always go forward on the path of conversion, always eager to grow in the love of Christ our Saviour. At the same time, we must invite our people to take this same path and continue on it. Conversion will require reconciliation, and for this purpose the great gift of God at our disposal is the Sacrament of Penance. It is at one and the same time the Sacrament of forgiveness, reconciliation and mercy. For this reason, I urge you to foster regular reception of this Sacrament among your people, and I ask you to encourage your brother priests to give themselves generously to this pastoral service. The Sacrament of Penance is the first and fundamental step, through reconciliation, towards peace – peace in the heart of each person, in our communities and in the world.

5. It is truly fitting that this regional seminary has been placed under the patronage of St Peter Chanel. What better model of the priesthood could be offered to young men than this missionary who became the first martyr for the faith in Oceania. Martyrdom, as the Second Vatican Council said, is "the highest gift and supreme test of love". It is good for us to recall, however, that the foundation for Peter Chanel’s heroic martyrdom was firmly laid long before his death.

Many years before the day he was put to death in his own hut, Peter Chanel had begun to live, in a most profound way, the Paschal Mystery of Christ. With Saint Paul he could say: "All I want is to know Christ and the power of his Resurrection and to share his suffering by reproducing the pattern of his death." This is what sustained him, as it still sustains your priests in Oceania today. When he faced the physical privations and social obstacles of those first years in Futuna, and when he was weighed down by the feelings of isolation and discouragement that were part of those first missionary efforts, he took heart and found the strength to persevere by looking firmly to the Cross and Resurrection of our loving Redeemer.

With deep faith and remarkable patience, he was always gentle. He never lost hope in the transforming power of the Gospel. When we consider that within two years of his martyrdom the whole island of Futuna became Catholic, we realize that there was something remarkable about the daily witness of his life in Christ. His life confirms the truth of what Pope Paul VI said in his apostolic exhortation on Evangelization: "For the Church, the first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentically Christian life, given over to God in a communion that nothing should destroy and at the same time given to one’s neighbour with limitless zeal... It is primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus – the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity."

6. My brother bishops: I leave with you these few thoughts, fully aware that there is much more that could be said. It is not possible now to speak of all that is in our minds and hearts, but I particularly want to assure you of my closeness to you and your people. Between the Successor of Peter and the successors of the other Apostles there is indeed a profound spiritual and pastoral bond; it is our collegialitas afectiva et effectiva. May we always find ways to support one another in our united efforts to build up the Church and to live out this communion in service and in faith.

At the altar each day and in my other prayers, I present you and your clergy, religious and laity to the Father in gratitude and in petition. The words of St Paul express well what is in my heart: "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, ... making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the Gospel."

Dear brother bishops: in this hour of joy and ecclesial communion, I commend you to Mary the Mother of Jesus and Mother of his Church. I also entrust to her loving care the future of your local Churches, and especially all your generous efforts to make our Lord Jesus Christ ever more known and loved. I ask her to help the poor and the needy, and to protect all the People of God scattered throughout the Pacific. May she be for all of you a cause of joy and a source of strength!"

Papa San Juan Pablo II's words to Young People
Farewell Ceremony at Nadi, Fiji, Saturday 22nd November 1986 - in English & Italian

"Dear young Friends,
1. I am very pleased that, before leaving your beloved country, I have this opportunity of meeting the youth of Fiji. It is a great pleasure to be with you. I greet you all in the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

People sometimes ask me: "What do you enjoy most about young people? Why do you so often meet them? Why did you write an Apostolic Letter to Youth, and why did you establish the World Youth Day to be celebrated on Passion Sunday each year?" My answer is very simple: I have confidence in young people. I see in them the future of the world, the future of the Church. I believe that the youth of today want to build a world of justice, truth and love; and with God’s help they can do so. Yes, I believe in you, the young people of Fiji.

2. Jesus Christ has a special love for young people. We can see this when we read the Gospel. For example, remember when Jesus rebuked his disciples for not letting children come to him saying: "it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs." And even more revealing is the example of his love for the rich young man. It is obvious that this young man was drawn to Jesus and felt at ease with him. He trusted Jesus enough to ask him a fundamental question: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus took the question seriously and answered it just as seriously. Even more importantly, "Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him". We know from the rest of the Gospel that Jesus does not reserve his love for young people alone. His loving gaze embraces everyone, the old as well as the young, the healthy as well as the sick. Jesus looks steadily at every one of us and loves us. This love of Jesus, in fact, is the heart of the Gospel. For his words and deeds, particularly his death on the Cross, can only be explained by love.

Saint John put it this way: "God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life". This is the message of salvation which the Church proclaims to the world. This is the message which I repeat to you today: "God loves you so much that he gave his only Son, and if you believe in his Son you will have eternal life".

3. To believe in Jesus is more than a matter of words. It is more than being attracted to Christ, as the rich young man was. Faith demands a generous response. It demands the commitment of your whole life to the person and message of Christ. But this must be done freely and deliberately, for you are able to accept or reject the gift Christ offers.

As for the rich young man, unfortunately he was not ready to make the sacrifice that faith demands. "Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me’. But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth". The young man went away sad, but his sadness need not be the last word. In fact, the keynote of the Gospel message is joy.

Joy is the hallmark of the saints. Joy is the result of faith and sacrifice. We see this in the message of the angel who, at the birth of Jesus, said to the shepherds: "Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people". This same joy floods every heart that lives in faithful union with Jesus. But remember this: love also demands sacrifice. Do not underestimate the cost of remaining faithful to Christ. Too easily today love is misunderstood. It is reduced to mere sentimental feelings, or identified with selfish desires. But real love is always linked with the truth, and is expressed in generous service to others. Real love makes demands upon us and requires us to keep the Commandments. Thus it is that Jesus said: "If you love me you will keep my commandments".

Three times Jesus asked Peter: "Do you love me?". And each time Peter answered: "Yes, Lord, you know I love you". Peter was quick to affirm his love for Christ, and each time he was reminded how to put that love into practice. Jesus told him: "Feed my lambs, feel my sheep". Peter never forgot that conversation, and the Successor of Peter cannot forget it either. Jesus’ words are meant in a particular way for me, but they also apply to you. Peter was asked to show his love for the Lord by serving the needs of his brothers and sisters, by exercising his ministry in the Church. The same Lord who spoke to Peter is speaking to you today. He is asking for your love.

I hope and pray, dear young people of Fiji, that you will never turn away from Christ like the rich young man, that you will never go away sad. If you believe in Christ, if you accept his words and also accept the sacrifices that he asks, you will be filled with joy, a joy that the world cannot give.

4. And now the time has come for me to say good-bye. My visit to this country has flown by all too quickly, and I must continue my pastoral journey to other people and other lands. But before I leave I want to express a word of admiration and also a word of gratitude. The admiration which I feel for the people of Fiji existed before I come to your country. I admire the many values and special qualities which you have fostered and cherished over the years. Above all. I admire the way people of such diverse cultures and backgrounds live together here in harmony and peace. You differ widely among yourselves, yet you are one united nation. Through a common will and mutual effort, you have learned how to support one another in your diversity, to respect one another’s customs and to emphasize what you hold in common. In a very visible way, you are a symbol of hope in the world. You have something to teach the world about solidarity and loving respect for every person.

I am deeply grateful for the hospitality offered to me here in your country. You have received me as a brother and friend. You have made me feel at home. I shall not forget your goodness and kindness, and I promise to remember you in my prayers. I wish to tell you also how much I share the sorrow of Fiji at the death of three soldiers who where killed in Lebanon during their peace mission. In their effort to serve the cause of peace they were called upon to give up their lives, and now you, dear young people, are called to live and work ever more so that peace may triumph on this earth. I wish to offer my sympathy to the families of the victims and pray that the Lord will give them strength.

And now I wish to entrust you to Mary, the Mother of Jesus and Mother of his Church. I entrust to Mary the future of this nation and the destiny of all its people. I pray that she will assist the young to remain steadfast in faith and to fulfil their mission of service to the world. I pray that she will comfort the suffering and obtain for the whole Church in Fiji the grace to be faithful to Jesus Christ and his saving and uplifting Gospel of love. And upon all the inhabitants of these islands I invoke the joy and peace of the Lord."