Bookmark and Share

John Paul II's Pastoral Visit to the Ukraine

23rd - 27th June 2001

Click here to read all Pope John Paul II's words (in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish) during his pilgrim trip in the Ukraine, visiting Kyiv and Lviv, and beatifying Jozef Bilczewski, Don Zygmunt Gorazdowski, Mykola Čarneckyj & 24 companions, Teodor Romża, Omeljan Kovč & Sr Josaphata Michaelina Hordashevska.

Pope John Paul II's Address at the Welcome Ceremony
Kyiv International Airport, Saturday 23 June 2001 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Mr President, Distinguished Civil Authorities and Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Venerable Brother Bishops, Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. I have long awaited this visit and have prayed fervently that it might take place. Finally, with deep joy, I have been able to kiss the beloved soil of Ukraine. I thank God for the gift which today he has given me.

History has recorded the names of two Roman Pontiffs who, in the distant past, came this far: St Clement I at the end of the first century and St Martin I in the mid seventh. They were deported to the Crimea, where they died as martyrs. Their present successor, however, comes to you in an atmosphere of festive welcome. He is eager to make this pilgrimage to the renowned churches of Kyiv, the cradle of the Christian culture of the whole of Eastern Europe.

I come among you, dear citizens of Ukraine, as a friend of your noble Nation. I come as a brother in the faith to embrace all the Christians who, amid the severest of tribulations, have persevered in their fidelity to Christ. I come in love, to express to all the sons and daughters of this Nation, to Ukrainians of every cultural and religious background, my esteem and my cordial friendship.

2. I greet you, Ukraine, brave and determined witness of adherence to the values of faith. How much you suffered in order to vindicate, in difficult times, the freedom to profess this faith!

I am reminded of the words of the Apostle St Andrew, who according to tradition said that he saw the glory of God shining brightly on the hills of Kyiv. And this is what happened, centuries later, with the Baptism of Prince Vladimir and his people. But the Apostle’s vision does not concern only your past; its light shines also on the future of your country. With the eyes of my heart, in fact, I seem to see a new radiance spreading over this blessed land: the radiance that will spring from the renewed confirmation of the choice made in the distant year 988, when Christ was accepted by the Ukrainian Nation as "the Way, and the Truth, and the Life" (Jn 14, 6).

3. If today I have the joy of being here among you, I owe it to the invitation made to me by you, President Leonid Kuchma, and by all of you, my venerable Brother Bishops of the two traditions, Eastern and Western. I am most grateful to you for this kind gesture, which has enabled me to set foot for the first time as the Successor of the Apostle Peter on the soil of this land.

My gratitude goes first of all to you, Mr President, for your warm welcome and for the courteous words which you have just addressed to me also in the name of all your fellow citizens. Through you I wish to greet the whole Ukrainian people. I congratulate them on their re-won independence and give thanks to God for the fact that this took place without bloodshed. A wish for the future rises up in my heart: that the Ukrainian Nation may continue on this road of peace, thanks to the harmonious contribution of the different ethnic, cultural and religious groups! Without peace, no shared and lasting prosperity is possible.

4. My thanks go now to you, my venerable Brother Bishops of the Greek Catholic Church and of the Latin Catholic Church. I have kept in my heart your repeated invitations to visit Ukraine, and I am happy that I am now able finally to do so. I am filled with joy and anticipation at the thought of the various opportunities which we shall have in the coming days to be united in prayer to Christ, our Lord. To the faithful of your communities go my affectionate greetings.

What an immense burden of suffering you have had to endure in years past! But now you are responding enthusiastically and re-organizing yourselves, seeking light and comfort from your glorious past. Your intention is to continue courageously in your resolve to spread the Gospel, the light of truth and love for every human being. Do not lose heart! This is an undertaking that honours you, and the Lord will certainly not fail to grant you the grace to bring it to completion.

5. As a pilgrim of peace and brotherhood, I am sure that I shall be welcomed with friendship also by those who, although they are not Catholics, have hearts open to dialogue and cooperation. I wish to assure them that I have not come here with the intention of proselytizing, but to bear witness to Christ together with all Christians of every Church and Ecclesial Community, and to invite all the sons and daughters of this noble Land to turn their eyes to Him who gave his life for the salvation of the world.

In this spirit I extend a cordial greeting to the dear Brother Bishops, the monks and priests, and all the faithful of the Orthodox Church, who form the majority of the citizens in this country. I recall with pleasure that down the course of history relations between the Church of Rome and the Church of Kyiv have known periods of light: as we remember these, we feel encouraged to hope for a future of ever greater understanding on the road to full communion.

Unfortunately, there have also been sad times, when the image of Christ’s love has been obscured: bowing before our one Lord, let us recognize our faults. As we ask forgiveness for the errors committed in both the distant and recent past, let us in turn offer forgiveness for the wrongs endured. The most fervent wish that rises from my heart is that the errors of times past will not be repeated in the future. May their memory not be a hindrance on the way to mutual knowledge, the source of brotherhood and cooperation.

The world is rapidly changing: what was unthinkable yesterday is within our reach today. Christ exhorts us all to renew in our hearts feelings of brotherly love. If we rely on love, it is possible — with God’s help — to transform the world.

6. Finally, my greetings extend to all the other citizens of Ukraine. Notwithstanding the diversity of your religious and cultural backgrounds, beloved people of Ukraine, there is one element that unites you: you share the same history, and the hopes and disappointments which it has brought.

Down the centuries, the Ukrainian people has known harsh and exhausting trials. How can we fail to recall, remaining in the context of the century just ended, the scourge of the two World Wars, the recurring famines, the disastrous natural calamities — extremely sad events that in their wake left millions dead? In particular, under the oppression of totalitarian regimes such as Communism and Nazism, the people risked losing its national, cultural and religious identity; it saw the destruction of the intellectual elite, the custodians of the Nation’s civil and religious heritage. Most recently, there was the radioactive accident at Chernobyl, with its tragic and pitiless consequences for the environment and the lives of so many human beings. But it was precisely at that moment that the definitive change for the better began. That apocalyptic event, which led your country to repudiate nuclear weapons, also brought your citizens to a vigorous re-awakening, inspiring them to set out on the road to a brave renewal.

It is difficult to explain as the result of merely human dynamics the epoch-making changes of the last two decades. But whatever the interpretation given, it is certain that from these experiences a new hope has been born. It is important not to disappoint the expectations which now fill the hearts of so many, especially among the young. With the contribution of everyone it is now urgently necessary to promote in the cities and villages of Ukraine the blossoming of a new, authentic humanism. This is the dream that your great poet Taras Shevchenko expressed in the famous verse: ".. enemies will be no more, but there will be the child, there will be the mother, there will be people on the earth!"

7. I embrace you all, beloved Ukrainians, from Donetsk to Lviv, from Kharkiv to Odessa and to Simferopol! In the very name Ukraine there is a reminder of the greatness of your Country which, with its history, bears witness to its unique vocation as the frontier and gate between East and West. Down the centuries this country has been the privileged crossroads of different cultures, the meeting place of the spiritual treasures of East and West.

Ukraine has a clearly European vocation, emphasized also by the Christian roots of your culture. My hope is that these roots will strengthen your national unity, bringing the life-blood of authentic and shared values to the reforms now under way. May this land continue in its noble mission, with the pride expressed by the poet just quoted when he wrote: "Nowhere in the world is there another Ukraine, nowhere is there another Dnieper". You who live in this Land, do not forget this!

These are the thoughts that fill my heart as I take my first steps on this visit, eagerly awaited and today happily begun. God bless you, dear people of Ukraine, and may he always protect your beloved Homeland!"

John Paul II's Prayer to Our Lady of Zarvaniza
23 June 2001 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"O Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Zarvaniza,
I thank you for the gift of my visit to the Kyivan Rus’
from where the light of the Gospel spread through this whole region.

Here before your miraculous icon,
kept in this church of Saint Nicholas,
I entrust to you, Mother of God and Mother of the Church,
my apostolic journey to Ukraine.

Holy Mother of God,
spread your maternal mantle over all Christians
and over all people of good will
who live in this great nation.

Lead them to your Son, Jesus,
who is for everyone the way, the truth and the life. Amen."

JPII's address to representatives of politics, culture, science & business
Kyiv Presidential Palace, 23 June 2001 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Mr President, Honourable Representatives of the Government and Parliament,
Distinguished Authorities, Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I offer respectful and cordial greetings to one and all. With great pleasure I accepted your invitation, Mr President, to visit this noble country, a cradle of Christian civilization and a homeland where people of different nationalities and religions live together in peace. I rejoice that I am now standing on Ukrainian soil. I consider it a great honour to meet at last the people of a nation which, in these difficult years of transition, has succeeded in ensuring conditions of peace and tranquillity for its inhabitants. I thank you most cordially for your kind reception and your courteous words of welcome.

With great esteem I greet the Deputies and the Members of the Government, the Authorities of every rank, the Representatives of the people, the Diplomatic Corps, the men and women of culture, of the sciences, and all the vital forces which contribute to the welfare of the Nation. I embrace in sincere friendship the Ukrainian people, the majority of whom are Christian, as is evident from your culture, your native traditions, the numerous churches dotting the landscape, as well as the countless works of art found everywhere in your country. I greet a land which has known suffering and oppression, while preserving a love of freedom which no one has ever managed to repress.

2. I have come among you as a pilgrim of peace, impelled solely by the desire to testify that Christ is "the Way, and the Truth, and the Life" (Jn 14, 6). I have come to pay homage to the shrines of your history and to join you in imploring God’s protection upon your future.

With joy I greet you, splendid city of Kyiv, lying midway along the river Dnieper, cradle of the ancient Slavs and of Ukrainian culture, so deeply imbued with Christian values. On the soil of your land, a crossroads between Western and Eastern Europe, the two great Christian traditions, Eastern and Latin, met and were given a favourable welcome. Over the centuries, there have been tensions between them, resulting in conflicts harmful to both sides. But today there is a growing openness to mutual forgiveness. There is a need to overcome barriers and mistrust, in order to join in building a country of harmony and peace, drawing, as in the past, from the wellsprings of your shared Christian faith.

3. Yes, dear Ukrainians! It is Christianity that has inspired the greatest figures of your culture and art, and richly nourished the moral, spiritual and social roots of your country. I gladly recall here the words of your fellow countryman, the philosopher Hrigorij Skovoroda: "Everything passes away, but love remains after all else is gone. Everything passes away, save God and love". Only someone profoundly imbued with the Christian spirit was capable of such an insight. In his words we hear an echo of the First Letter of John: "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (4, 16).

Throughout Europe the word of the Gospel took deep root and in the course of the centuries brought forth wonderful fruits of civilization, learning and holiness. Tragically, the choices made by the peoples of the Continent have not always been consistent with the values of their respective Christian traditions, and history has thus been marked by painful episodes of oppression, destruction and sorrow.

The older among you remember the terrible years of the Soviet dictatorship and the dreadful famine of the beginning of the 1930s, when Ukraine, "the granary of Europe", was no longer able to feed its own children, who died by the millions. And how can we forget the host of your fellow citizens who perished during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 against the Nazi invasion? Unfortunately, liberation from Nazism marked the return of a regime which continued to trample on the most elementary human rights, deporting defenceless citizens, imprisoning dissidents, persecuting believers, and even attempting to erase the very idea of freedom and independence from the consciousness of the Ukrainian people. Happily, the great turning-point of 1989 finally permitted Ukraine to regain her freedom and full sovereignty.

4. Your people attained that greatly-desired goal peacefully and without bloodshed, and they are now firmly committed to a courageous programme of social and spiritual reconstruction. The international community cannot fail to admire the success which you have had in consolidating peace and in resolving regional tensions with due consideration for local differences.

I too encourage you to persevere in your efforts to overcome whatever difficulties remain and to guarantee full respect for the rights of national and religious minorities. A policy of wise tolerance will surely win respect and goodwill for the Ukrainian people and ensure you a particular place in the family of European peoples.

As Shepherd of the Catholic Church, I sincerely appreciate the fact that the Preamble to the Constitution of Ukraine reminds citizens of their "responsibility before God". Surely this was the viewpoint of your own Hrigorij Skovoroda, when he encouraged his contemporaries always to make every effort to "understand man", seeking paths which would enable humanity to emerge definitively from the dead end of intransigence and hatred.

The values of the Gospel, which are part of your national identity, will help you to build a modern, tolerant, open and fraternal society, in which individuals can make their own specific contribution to the common good, while at the same time finding the support they need to develop as fully as possible their own talents.

Here I appeal especially to the young people: as they follow in the steps of those who sacrificed their lives for lofty human, civic and religious ideals, may they preserve unchanged this heritage of civilization.

5. "Do not allow the powerful to destroy mankind", wrote Volodymyr Monomakh (+ 1125) in his book Instruction to My Children. These words remain as valid today as when they were first written.

In the 20th century, the totalitarian regimes destroyed whole generations, by undermining three pillars of any authentically human civilization: recognition of God’s authority, from which come binding moral rules of life (cf Ex 20, 1-18); respect for the dignity of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God (cf Gn 1, 26-27), and the duty to exercise power as a means of serving every member of society without exception, beginning with the weakest and the most vulnerable.

Denial of God did not make man any more free. Rather, it exposed him to various forms of slavery and debased the vocation of political power to the level of brutal and oppressive force.

6. Men and women of politics! Do not forget this earnest lesson of history! Your task is to serve the people and to ensure peace and equal rights for all. Resist the temptation to exploit power for personal or group interests. Always be concerned for the needs of the poor and work in all legitimate ways to ensure that every individual is guaranteed access to a just degree of prosperity.

Men and women of culture! You are heirs to a great history. I am thinking in particular of the Orthodox Archbishop of Kyiv, Metropolitan Peter Mohyla, who in the 17th century founded the Academy of Kyiv which is still remembered as a beacon of humanistic and Christian culture. It is your responsibility to apply a critical and creative intelligence in every sphere of knowledge, by linking the cultural heritage of the past to the challenges posed by modernity, in such a way as to contribute to authentic human progress under the banner of the civilization of love.

And in a special way for you, men and women engaged in scientific research, may the fearful social, economic and ecological catastrophe of Chernobyl serve as a permanent warning! The potential of technology must be wedded to unchanging ethical values, if the respect due to man and his inalienable dignity is to be guaranteed.

Men and women of business and finance in the new Ukraine! The future of your Nation depends also on you. Your courageous contribution, inspired always by the values of competence and honesty, will help to relaunch the national economy. This in turn will restore confidence to all those who are tempted to leave the country in order to seek employment elsewhere.

7. Distinguished Authorities, Ladies and Gentlemen! Humanity has entered the third millennium and new prospects are appearing on the horizon. A global process of development is taking place, marked by rapid and radical changes. Everyone is called to make their own contribution in a spirit of courage and confidence. The Catholic Church stands at the side of all people of good will and supports their efforts in the service of the common good.

For my part, I will continue to accompany you with my prayers, asking God to watch over you and your families, your undertakings and the aspirations of the whole Ukrainian people. Upon all of you I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God."

Papa Giovanni Paolo II's Homily at Holy Mass celebrated in Latin Rite
Feast of the Birth of St John the Baptist
Kyiv, Sunday 24 June 2001 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. "The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name" (Is 49, 1).

Today we celebrate the birth of St John the Baptist. The words of the prophet Isaiah are well-suited to describe this great biblical figure who stands between the Old and the New Testaments. In the long line of Israel’s prophets and just men and women, John "the Baptizer" was placed by God’s providence immediately before the Messiah, in order to prepare the way before him by his preaching and by the witness of his life.

Of all the Saints, John is the only one whose birth is celebrated by the Liturgy. We heard in the first Reading that the Lord called his Servant "from his mother’s womb". This statement refers in its fullest sense to Christ, but in a derivative way it can also be applied to his Precursor. Both are born as the result of a special intervention by God: the first is born of the Virgin, the second of an elderly and barren woman. Even from his mother’s womb John indicates the One who will reveal to the world the loving plan of God.

2. "From my mother’s womb you called me" (Responsorial Psalm)

Today we can make our own these words of the Psalmist. God knew and loved us even before our eyes could contemplate the marvels of creation. At birth all men and women receive a human name. But even before that, each one has a divine name: the name by which God the Father knows and loves them from eternity and for eternity. This is true for everyone, with the exception of none. No one is nameless in God’s sight! All have equal value in his eyes: all are different, yet all are equal, and all are called to be sons and daughters in the Son.

"His name is John" (Lk 1:63). Before his astonished kinsmen, Zechariah confirms that this is the name of his son, writing it on a tablet. God himself, through his angel, had given that name, which in Hebrew means "God is benevolent". God is benevolent to human beings: He wants them to live; He wants them to be saved. God is benevolent to his people: He wants to make of them a blessing for all the nations of the earth. God is benevolent to humanity: He guides its pilgrim way towards the land where peace and justice reign. All this is contained in that name: John!

Dear brothers and sisters! John the Baptist was the messenger, the forerunner: he was sent to prepare the way for Christ. How does the figure of St John the Baptist speak to us here, in Kyiv, at the beginning of this pilgrimage in your country? Is it not in some way providential that this figure speaks to us precisely here in Kyiv?

3. This is the place of the Baptism of Rus’. From Kyiv there began that flowering of Christian life which the Gospel first brought forth in the land of the ancient Rus’, then in the lands of Eastern Europe and, later, beyond the Urals, in the lands of Asia. In a certain sense, then, Kyiv itself played the role of a "precursor of the Lord" among the many peoples who would receive the proclamation of the Gospel from here.

St Volodymyr and the inhabitants of Rus’ were baptized by missionaries sent from Constantinople, the greatest centre of Christianity in the East. Thus the new-born Church entered the sphere of the exceedingly rich patrimony of faith and culture of the Byzantine Church. This was at the end of the first millennium. While living according to two different traditions, the Church of Constantinople and the Church of Rome were still in full communion. As I wrote in my Apostolic Letter Euntes in Mundum: "We ought to thank the Lord together for this fact, which today represents a good omen and a hope. God willed that Mother Church, visibly united, should welcome into her bosom, already rich with nations and peoples, and at a moment of missionary expansion both in the West and in the East, this her new daughter on the banks of the Dnieper" (4).

If, as we celebrate the Eucharist today according to the Roman tradition, we recall that moment so profoundly linked to the Byzantine tradition, we do so with gratitude. And we do so with the desire that the memory of the one baptism which we share will help to restore that situation of communion in which diversity of traditions posed no obstacle to unity in faith and ecclesial life.

4. The Baptism which took place here, in Kyiv, inaugurated the thousand year history of Christianity in the lands of today’s Ukraine and in the whole region. Today, having the grace of coming to this historic place, my thoughts go back through the more than 10 centuries in which the gift of that first Baptism has continued to be poured out upon successive generations of the sons and daughters of this Nation. What a flowering of spiritual, liturgical and ecclesial life developed from the meeting of different cultures and religious traditions! This splendid inheritance is now entrusted to you, dear brothers and sisters. During these days of my pilgrimage to your country, I join you in praying that your own generation, at the beginning of a new millenium, will prove worthy of the great traditions of its past.

From this City, the cradle of the Christian faith for Ukraine and for the whole area, I greet and embrace with heartfelt affection all the men and women living in these lands. In a special way I greet Cardinals Marian Jaworski and Lubomyr Husar, together with the beloved Bishop of Kyiv-Zhytomyr, Jan Purwi½ski, my venerable Brothers from the Ukrainian Episcopal Conference and the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. I greet the clergy, the men and women religious and the lay faithful of your glorious and sorely-tried Churches; with great courage they were able to keep alight the lamp of faith even in the dark times of persecution.

5. People of God, you who believe, hope and love in the land of Ukraine, joyfully savour once more the gift of the Gospel which you received over 1000 years ago! Look today to John the Baptist, an enduring model of fidelity to God and his Law. John prepared the way for Christ by the testimony of his word and his life. Imitate him with docile and trusting generosity.

Saint John the Baptist is above all a model of faith. Following the example of the great prophet Elijah, in order to listen more attentively to the word of the one Lord of his life, he leaves everything and withdraws to the desert, from which he would issue the resounding call to prepare the way of the Lord (cf Mt 3, 3). He is a model of humility, because to those who saw in him not only a prophet, but the Messiah himself, he replied: "Who do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie" (Acts 13, 25). He is a model of uprightness and courage in defending the truth, for which he was prepared to pay in his person, even to the point of imprisonment and death.

Land of Ukraine, drenched with the blood of martyrs, thank you for the example of fidelity to the Gospel which you have given to Christians the world over! So many of your sons and daughters walked in complete fidelity to Christ; many of them remained constant even to the supreme sacrifice. May their witness serve as an example and a stimulus for the Christians of the third millenium.

6. In the school of Christ, in the footsteps of St John the Baptist and of the saints and martyrs of this land, may you too, dear brothers and sisters, be brave enough always to give priority to the values of the spirit.

Dear Bishops, priests, men and women religious, who have faithfully accompanied this people at the price of personal sacrifices of every kind, sustaining them in the dark times of the Communist terror, I thank you and I offer you this encouragement: continue to be zealous witnesses to Christ and good shepherds of his flock in this beloved country of Ukraine.

You, dear young people, be brave and free! Do not let yourselves be taken in by the deceptive mirages of an easy happiness. Follow the way of Christ: He is demanding, certainly, but He alone can help you to savour the full meaning of life and enjoy peace of heart.

You, dear parents, prepare the way of the Lord before your children. Bring them up with love, and set a good example by living the principles you teach. And you, teachers and leaders of society, deepen your commitment to promoting the complete development of the human person, fostering in the young a deep sense of justice and of solidarity with the less fortunate.

May you be, one and all, "a light to the nations" (Is 49, 6)!

7. City of Kyiv, may you be a "light to Ukraine". From you there set out the evangelizers who down the centuries have been "John the Baptists" for the peoples dwelling in these lands. How many of them, like John, suffered in order to bear witness to the truth, and by their blood became the seed of new Christians. May future generations never lack men and women of the mettle of these, your glorious ancestors.

Most Holy Virgin, Protectress of Ukraine, you have always guided the Christian people on their pilgrim way. Continue to watch over your children. Help them never to forget the "name", the spiritual identity which they received in Baptism. Help them to rejoice always in the priceless grace of being followers of Christ (cf Jn 3, 29). May you be the guide of each one. You, Mother of God and our Mother, Mary!"

Papa John Paul II's words at the Angelus at the end of Mass
Feast of the Birth of St John the Baptist - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Before concluding this solemn Eucharistic celebration, let us turn in the prayer of the Angelus to Mary Most Holy, to whom the Ukrainian people are deeply devoted. Mary, the first and the most perfect disciple of her Son, is a figure and a model of the Church which welcomes the word of the Lord in faith. Her protection has accompanied every step of the Christian community in Ukraine ever since the Baptism of Rus’ in 988.

Bathed by the great river of faith, Ukraine thus became a Christian land and, at the same time, a Marian country. This can be seen in the numerous shrines which express the deep love of the faithful for their heavenly Mother. For the faithful of the Latin Rite I am thinking, in particular, of the Shrines of Berdichiv and of Letichiv. Among the faithful of the Byzantine Rite the Shrines of Zarvanytsia and of Hoshiv are greatly venerated. In mind and heart I wish to visit these places of worship and prostrate myself devoutly at the feet of the Virgin to invoke upon everyone her maternal protection.

To Mary’s heavenly intercession I entrust this my pastoral visit and all those whom I shall meet during these days. In a special way I ask her, Mother of the Church, to hasten the steps of all Christians towards full communion. In Ukraine and throughout the world, may believers in Christ be able as soon as possible to fulfil the heartfelt prayer of the one Lord: "Ut omnes unum sint!" (Jn 17, 2). May this take place per Mariam, through Mary, Mother of all believers, Mother of unity!"

Greetings in different languages:

[Polish] Na zakończenie tej uroczystej liturgii pragnę pozdrowić mieszkańców Kijowa i pielgrzymów mówiących po polsku. Cieszę się, że przybyliście tu, aby wraz z Papieżem i z Kościołem w Kijowie dziękować Bogu za ponad tysiąc lat chrześcijaństwa na Ukrainie. Pozdrawiam was serdecznie słowami: Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus! Opiece Bożej (por. Mt 11, 11) polecam wszystkich mieszkańców tego Miasta i całej Ukrainy, aby skarb wiary, który przechowali przez wieki - często za cenę wyrzeczeń i ofiar, aż do przelania krwi - przekazali nienaruszony i ubogacony pokoleniom nowego tysiąclecia. Najświętszej Maryi Pannie, Matce Kościoła, zawierzam duszpasterzy, rodziny, młodzież i dzieci, ludzi samotnych i potrzebujących. Niech Jej miłość otacza wszystkich i pozwoli czerpać obficie ze ródeł łaski Bożej. Niech Bóg wam błogosławi!"

[Translation of Russian] "Now I greet with affection the faithful of the Russian language. Beloved, I exhort you to draw continually from prayer the strength and courage to adhere faithfully to the Gospel becoming faithful disciples of Christ. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life for everyone and for all nations. From my heart I bless you. Praised be Jesus Christ."

[Translation of Belarusian] "I greet with affection the pilgrims of the Belarusian language, who have joined our celebration. Beloved, through you, I want to make my greeting and my blessing reach your entire nation. May the example of the Precursor of the Lord inspire you to announce Christ courageously to your compatriots. Praised be Jesus Christ."

[Lithuanian] "Nuoširdziai sveikinu lietuvius tiki nčiuosius! Brangieji! Daznai turiu progą sutikti jusu tautiečius, kurie atvyksta aplankyu mane Romoje. Šiandien štai ir aš atejau prie jusu garbingos Tėvynes, kuriai siunčiu nuoširdzu sveikinuną. Širdingai laiminu jus, jusu šeimas ir visą lietuviu tautą. Garbė Jėzui Kristui!"

[Hungarian] "Kedves magyar hívek! Nagy szeretettel köszöntelek Benneteket. Megköszönöm huségteket Szent Péter utódja iránt. Orizzétek meg a hitet, kultúrátokat, hagyományaitokat!
Apostoli áldásommal. Dicsértessék a Jézus Krisztus.

[Romanian] "Adresez un cordial salut credinciosilor Români. Mult iubitilor, este mereu vie în mine amintirea vizitei în România, si mai ales a primirii călduroase ce mi-a fost rezervată. Vă multumesc câ ati venit astăzi până aici si cu afectiune vă binecuvântez împreună cu familiile voastre si Patria voastră.
Lăudat să fie Isus Cristos!"

"With affection in the Lord Jesus, I greet the pilgrims who have come from other countries. At the beginning of the new millennium the Church needs your faith, your prayer, your fidelity. The world needs the witness of your love and service. God bless you all!"

[German] "Mit großer Freude grüße ich euch, liebe Schwestern und Brüder deutscher Sprache. Möge die Feier der Eucharistie euren Glauben stärken, damit eure Werke Zeichen jener Liebe sind, in der die Einheit gründet. Gerne erteile ich euch und allen euren Lieben den Apostolischen Segen.

[French] "Je salue cordialement tous les fidèles qui ont participé à cette célébration eucharistique. Puissent-ils, fortifiés par la Parole de Dieu et par la communion au Christ ressuscité, être des témoins de l'Évangile, et des acteurs de l'unité entre les chrétiens et de la fraternité entre tous les hommes!"

Tuesday, 26th June

Pope John Paul II - to the Young People
Sykhiv Square, Lviv - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

1. "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6:68).

Dear young people of Ukraine, the Apostle Peter spoke these words to Jesus, who had presented himself to the crowds as the bread come down from heaven to give life to men. Today I have the joy of repeating these words in your presence, indeed of repeating them in your name and together with you.

Today Christ asks you the same question that he asked the Apostles: "Will you also go away?". And you, young people of Ukraine, how do you reply? I am sure that with me you too will make your own the words of Peter: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life".

Seeing so many of you, and so enthusiastic, my thoughts go back to the World Youth Day which took place in Rome in August last year and at which many of you were present. There I invited the young people of the whole world to open a great "school of faith", a place in which to search for and examine more deeply the reasons for following Christ the Saviour . Today we are experiencing a significant moment of the "school of faith" here in your land, where the proclamation of the Gospel arrived more than a thousand years ago.

Once again, at the beginning of the third millennium, Christ asks you: "Who do you say that I am?" (Mt 16:15). Dear young people, the Pope has come among you to encourage you to answer: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16); "You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6:68).

2. Yes, dear young people, Christ has the "words of eternal life". His words last for ever and above all they open for us the gates of eternal life. When God speaks, his words give life, they call things into existence, they direct our journey, they restore disappointed and broken hearts and pour fresh hope into them.

Reading the Bible, we discover right from the first page that God speaks to us. He speaks to us as he gives life to creation: the heavens, the earth, light, water, living things, man and woman, everything exists by his word. His word gives meaning to all things, rescuing them from chaos. For this reason nature is an immense book in which we can see with ever fresh wonder the traces of divine Beauty.

Even more than in creation, God speaks in the story of humanity. He reveals his presence in world events, by beginning time after time a dialogue with men and women created in his image, in order to establish with each one of them a communion of life and love. History becomes a journey in which the Creator and the individual come to know each other, a dialogue of which the ultimate purpose is to lead us our of the slavery of sin to the freedom of love.

3. Dear young people, when lived in this way, history becomes a path to freedom. Do you wish to travel this path? Do you too wish to be part of this adventure? The future of Ukraine and of the Church in this country depends also on your reply. You are not alone on this journey. You are part of a great people of believers who look back to an ancient Patriarch, Abraham. He listened to the call of the Lord and set out, becoming our "father in faith", because he believed and trusted the Lord who promised him land and descendants.

From Abraham’s faith came the chosen people, who under the guidance of Moses undertook the exodus from slavery in Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land. At the centre of the exodus is the Sinai covenant, based on the ten words of God: the "Decalogue", the "Ten Commandments". These are "words of eternal life", because they are always valid, and because they give life to those who observe them.

4. Dear friends! One day a young man, who was very rich, asked Jesus: "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" (Mt 19:16). And Jesus replied: "If you would enter life, keep the commandments" (Mt 19:17). Christ did not come to abolish the first covenant but to bring it to fulfilment. The Ten Commandments have permanent value, because they are the fundamental law of humanity, written in the conscience of every person. They are the first step to freedom and eternal life, because by observing them man places himself in the right relationship with God and neighbour. They "make explicit the response of love that man is called to give to his God" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2083). This law is written naturally in the heart of every human person and is to be faithfully accepted and carried out. It should become the rule of our daily life.

In today’s world we see profound and rapid social changes and many moral points of reference have become shaky, throwing people into confusion and sometimes despair. The Decalogue is like a compass in a stormy sea which enables us to keep on course and reach land. This is why today I wish to present the commandments of the Decalogue to you anew, young people of Ukraine, in a symbolic way, so that they will be your "compass", the solid point of reference for building your present and your future.

5. "You shall love the Lord your God." We must give God the first place in our lives. For this reason the first three commandments are concerned with our relationship with him. He rightly deserves to be loved with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength (cf. Dt 6:5). God is one, and he is not to be exchanged for false gods. To you too, dear young people, he says: "I am the Lord your God, I wish to lead you into the fullness of life: do not put something else in my place".

The pressure is strong today to replace the true God with false gods and deceptive aims. Material things are today’s idols. If they are sought and used as means and instruments of good, they are a help to us. However, they should never occupy the first place in man’s heart, even less in the heart of young people, who are called to fly high, towards the most beautiful and most noble ideals!

The name of God is Father, Love, Faithfulness, Mercy. How can we fail to desire that everyone should know and love him? His day – the Sabbath, which for us Christians became Sunday, the day of the Lord’s Resurrection – is an anticipation of the Promised Land. How can we fail not to make it holy by taking part in the Eucharist, the festive meeting of the Christian community?

6. "Love your neighbour." The other seven commandments refer to our relations with our neighbours. They show us the path which enables us to establish relationships with other human beings marked by respect and love, based on truth and justice.

Those who put this divine law into practice often find themselves going against the current. Young people of Ukraine, Christ asks you to go against the current! He asks you to be defenders of his law and to put it into practice in proper behaviour in daily life. This ancient and ever valid law finds its perfect fulfilment in the Gospel. It is love that animates our lives, and it is to true, free and profound love that faithful observance of the ten commandments leads. With this divine law solidly rooted in your hearts, do not be afraid: you will fulfil yourselves and contribute to the building of a world marked by greater solidarity and justice.

7. Dear young people, your country is going through a difficult and complex transition from the totalitarian regime which oppressed it for so many years to a society at last free and democratic. Freedom however needs strong, responsible and mature consciences. Freedom is demanding, and in a sense is more costly than slavery!

For this reason, as I embrace you like a father, I say to you: choose the narrow path that the Lord is showing you through his commandments. They are words of truth and life. The path that often seems wide and easy later shows itself to be deceptive and false. Do not go from the slavery of the Communist regime to the slavery of consumerism, another form of materialism which, without explicitly rejecting God, actually does deny him by excluding him from life.

Without God you will not be able to do anything good. With his help, however, you will be able to face all the challenges of the present moment. You will succeed in making demanding choices, against the current, as for example the decision to stay confidently in your own country, without giving in to the illusions of an easy life abroad. You are needed here, young people, ready to make your contribution to improving the social, cultural, economic and political situation of your own country. Here the talents in which you are rich are needed for the future of your land, which has such a glorious history behind it.

The future of Ukraine depends in large part on you and the responsibilities that you will undertake. God will not fail to bless your efforts, if you commit your lives to generous service to family and society, placing the common good before private interests. Ukraine needs men and women dedicated to serving society, having as their aim the promotion of the rights and well-being of all, especially the weakest and most deprived. This is the logic of the Gospel, but it is also the logic that makes the civil community grow. True civilization, in fact, is measured not by economic progress alone but also and mainly by the human, moral and spiritual progress of a people.

8. Dear young people! I thank God who has given me the joy of meeting you! Before leaving you, I wish to add a final word: love the Church! She is your family and the spiritual building of which you are called to be the living stones. She has a particularly fascinating appearance here on account of the different traditions which enrich her. In a spirit of brotherhood, go on your way and grow in unity as you are today, so that the different traditions will not be a reason for division but rather an encouragement towards mutual knowledge and esteem.

May the Virgin Mary, who is so greatly venerated here in the land of Ukraine, accompany you on this journey. Love her and listen to her. She will teach you to make a sincere and generous gift of yourselves to God and to others. She will inspire you to seek in Christ the fullness of life and joy. In this way you will be in the Church the new generation of saints of your land, faithful to God and man, apostles of the Gospel, above all among your own contemporaries.

Let your spiritual food be the Eucharistic Bread, Christ himself! Strengthened by him in the Eucharist, you will remain always in his love and you will bear much fruit. And if the path will sometimes be steep, if the path of faithfulness to the Gospel will appear too demanding, because it will certainly require sacrifice and courageous decisions, remember our meeting. In this way you will be able to relive the enthusiasm of the profession of faith that we have made together today: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." Repeat it and do not fear! Christ will be your strength and your joy.

Thank you, dear friends! The Pope loves you and sees you as the sentinels of a new dawn of hope. He praises God for your generosity, while he prays for you with affection and with all his heart he blesses you.

The Holy Father then greeted the young people from Russia and Poland:

I am pleased to greet the young people who have come from Russia. Dear friends, thank you for your presence! When you go back home, take your relatives and friends my greeting and witness to the joy of the meeting with your fidelity to Christ. Bring my blessing to everyone.

Dear young friends, you are here, with the community of your peers, to meet the Pope and hear what he has to tell you. So I would like to say what I said to the whole Church at the end of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000: Duc in altum! Put out into the deep! Do not give into despair which can be caused by the crisis of social relations, by your own failures in the search for the meaning of daily life or by any other conditioning of the contemporary world. Never lose sight of Christ! Fix his Face in your mind - the Face of the Son of God incarnate, the Teacher, the Healer, the suffering Servant of the Lord, of the risen Lord. See in his eyes how he loves you! Do not be afraid of this love! Do not be afraid to respond to it with sincere young love! May this love shape your world, your personality and your human relations! With Christ, put out into the deep of your own humanity! Never lose hope! Fidelity to his call will bear blessed fruit in your lives.

Dear young people! Remember the martyrs. Remember what a high price your grandparents and parents paid to keep their fidelity to Christ and to the Church. May their faith, hope and charity bear fruit in your hearts.

I ask you to take my greetings to your families, your schools, your workplaces. Take them to your peers. I carry you all in my heart and embrace you with my prayer. I pray God that you will be the generation to lay solid foundations under the building of the faith of the generations in the third millennium. God bless you!