6TH WORLD YOUTH DAY
MESSAGE of the HOLY FATHER POPE JOHN
have received a spirit of sonship" (Rom 8:15).
Dear young people!
The World Youth Days mark important stages in the life of
the Church, as she seeks to intensify her commitment to
evangelization in today's world, looking towards the year
2000. By proposing every year for your meditation certain
essential truths of the Gospel teaching, these Days are
intended to give nourishment for your faith and new
energies for your apostolate.
As theme of the Sixth World Youth Day, I have chosen the
words of St Paul: "You have received a spirit of
sonship" (Rom 8:15). These words lead us into the
deepest mystery of the Christian vocation: in the divine
plan, we are indeed called to become sons and daughters
of God in Christ, through the Holy Spirit.
How can we fail to be amazed at the heights to which we
are called? The human being a created and limited
being, even a sinner is destined to be a child of
God! How can we fail to exclaim with St John: "See
what love the Father has given us, that we should be
called children of God; and so we are!" (I Jn 3:1)?
How can we remain indifferent to this challenge of God's
paternal love, inviting us to so deep and intimate a
As you celebrate the next World Day, let this holy
amazement take possession of you, inspiring in each one
of you an ever more filial attachment to God, our Father.
received a spirit of sonship..." The Holy Spirit,
the true agent of our divine sonship, has regenerated us
to new life in the waters of Baptism. From that moment,
he "bears witness with our spirit that we are
children of God" (Rom 8:16).
What does it mean, in the life of the Christian, to be a
son or daughter of God: St Paul writes: "All who are
led by the Spirit of God are sons of God "(Rom 8:14).
To be sons and daughters of God means, therefore, to
receive the Holy Spirit, to let ourselves be guided by
him, to be, open to his action in our personal history
and in the history of the world.
To all of you young people, on the occasion of this World
Youth Day, I say: Receive the Holy Spirit and be strong
in faith! "God did not give us a spirit of timidity
but a spirit of power and love and selfcontrol" (2
"You have received a spirit of sonship..." The
children of God, that is the men and women re-born in
Baptism and strengthened in Confirmation, are among the
first to build a new civilization, the civilization of
truth and love: they are the light of the world and the
salt of the earth (cf. Mt 5:13-16).
I am thinking of the profound changes taking place in the
world. For many peoples the doors are opening the hope of
a life more worthy of them and more human. In this
connection, I recall the truly prophetic words of the
Second Vatican Council: "The Spirit of God, who with
marvellous providence directs the course of history and
renews the face of the earth, is present in this
evolution" (Gaudium et spes, 26).
Yes, the Spirit of the sons and daughters of God is the
driving force in the history of peoples. In every age,
the Spirit raises up new men and women who live in
holiness, in truth and in justice. On the threshold of
the year 2000, the world that is anxiously seeking ways
of living together in greater solidarity urgently needs
to count on persons who, with the help of the Holy Spirit,
are capable of living as true children of God.
that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his
Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ?Abba, Father',
and it is this that makes you a son; you are not a slave
any more; and if God has made you son, then He has made
you heir" (Gal 4:6-7). St Paul speaks to us of the
heritage of the sons and daughters of God. What is meant
is a gift of eternal life, but at the same time, a task
to be carried out already today, a design for life that
is fascinating, especially for you young people, who, in
your inmost hearts have a yearning for high ideals.
Holiness is the essential heritage of the children of God.
Christ says: "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is
perfect" (Mt 5:48). This means doing the will of the
Father in every circumstance of life. It is the high road
that Jesus has pointed out to us: "Not every one who
says to me, ?Lord, Lord', shall enter the kingdom of
heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in
heaven" (Mt 7:21).
I repeat again today what I said at Santiago de
Compostela: "Young people, do not be afraid to be
holy!" Fly high, be among those whose goals are
worthy of sons and daughters of God. Glorify God in your
The heritage of
the sons and daughters of God includes brotherly love,
after the example of Jesus, first-born among many
brothers and sisters (cf. Rom 8:29): "Love one
another, as I have loved you" (Jn 15:12). If we call
upon God as "Father", we cannot fail to
recognize in our neighbour whoever this may be
a brother or sister who has a right to our love.
This is the great commitment for the children of God:
working to build a society in which all peoples will jive
Is not this what the world most needs today? Within
nations we can feel the strength of longing for unity
that will break down every barrier of indifference and
hate. It is especially for you, young people, to take on
the great task of building a society where there will be
more justice and solidarity.
Another prerogative of the children of God is freedom;
this also is part of their heritage. We touch here on a
subject to which you young people are particularly
sensitive, because what is at issue is an immense gift
that the Creator has placed in our hands. But a gift that
must be used rightly. How many false forms of freedom
there are, leading to slavery!
In the Encyclical Redemptor Hominis I wrote on this
subject: "Jesus Christ meets the men and women of
every age, including our own, with the same words: ?You
will know the truth and the truth will make you free' (Jn
8:32). These words contain both a fundamental requirement
and a warning: the requirement of an honest relationship
to truth as a condition for authentic freedom, and the
warning to avoid every kind of illusory freedom, every
superficial unilateral freedom, every freedom that fails
to enter into the whole truth about the human being and
the world. Today also, even after two thousand vears, we
see Christ as the one who brings men and women freedom
based on truth..." (n. 12).
"When Christ freed us he meant us to remain free"
(Gal 5:1). Liberation by Christ is liberation from sin,
the root of all human slaveries. St Paul says: "You
who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the
heart to the standard of teaching to which you were
committed, and, having been set free from sin, have
become slaves of righteousness" (Rom 6:17). Freedom,
therefore, is a gift and, at the same time, an essential
duty for every Christian: "You did not receive the
spirit of slavery..." (Rom 8:15), the Apostle
Exterior freedom, guaranteed by just civil laws, is
important and necessary. We rightly rejoice that today,
in an ever increasing number of countries, the
fundamental rights of the human person are respected,
even if, not infrequently, there has been a high price to
pay in sacrifice and bloodshed. But, however precious,
exterior freedom alone is not enough. lt must be rooted
always in the interior freedom that belongs to the
children of God, who live according to the Spirit (cf.
Gal 5:16) and are guided by an upright moral conscience,
capable of choosing what is truly good. "Where the
Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Cor 3:17).
This, dear young people, is the only path to take if
humankind is to become mature and worthy of its name.
See, then, how great and challenging is the heritage of
the sons and daughters of God, to which you are called.
Receive it with gratitude and responsibility. Do not
waste it! Have the courage, every day, to live by it
consistently and to announce it to others. In this way,
the world will become, more and more, the great family of
the sons and daughters of God.
At the heart of
the World Youth Day 1991 there will be another world
This time, to conclude the customary meetings and
celebrations in the dioceses, we will meet to pray
together at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, in
Poland, my home country. Many of you, remembering the
experience of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (1989),
will flock joyfully to this rendezvous on the Feast of
the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 14 and 15
August 1991. 1 our hearts and in our prayers, we will
bring with us the youth of the whole world.
Set out therefore, already now, on your way to the
dwelling of the Mother of Christ and our Mother,
meditating, under her loving gaze, on the theme of the
Sixth World Day: "You have received a spirit of
Where better than at the feet of God's Mother can we
learn what it means to be sons and daughters of God? Mary
is the best teacher. The role entrusted to her was
fundamental for the history of salvation: "When the
time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of
woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under
the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons"
Where better than in her maternal heart can we guard the
heritage of the sons and daughters of God Promised by the
Father? We bear this gift in vessels of clay. For each
one of us, our pilgrimage will be, therefore, a great act
of entrustment to Mary. We will be going to a Shrine
which, for the Polish people, has a very special
significance as a place of evangelization and conversion;
a Shrine to which thousands of pilgrims make their way
from all parts of the country and of the world.
For more than 600 years, in the Monastery of Jasna Góra
at Czestochowa, Mary has been venerated in the miraculous
icon of the Black Madonna. There, at the most difficult
moments of its history, the Polish people has found, in
the Mother's house, the strength of faith and hope, its
own dignity and the heritage of the children of God.
For the young people of East and West, of North and South,
for all, the pilgrimage to Czestochowa will be a witness
of faith to the whole world. It will be a pilgrimage of
freedom across the frontiers of States which, more and
more, are opening to Christ, Redeemer of humanity.
with this Message is to inaugurate the journey of
spiritual preparation both for the Sixth World Youth Day
and for the pilgrimage to Czestochowa. These reflections
are meant to serve as initial steps on this journey,
which is above all one of faith, of conversion and of a
return to the essentials of our life.
For you, young people of the countries of Eastern Europe,
I have a word of special encouragement. Do not miss this
appointment. Already now, it can be seen as a memorable
encounter between the youth of the Churches of East and
West. Your presence at Czestochowa will be an immensely
meaningful witness to faith.
And you, dear young people of my beloved Poland, you are
called this time to give hospitality to your friends from
all parts of the world. For you and for the Church of
Poland this encounter, in which I too will take part,
will be an extraordinary spiritual gift at this moment of
your history, so full of hope for the future.
Kneeling in spirit before the image of the Black Madonna
of Czestochowa I entrust to her loving protection the
whole event of the Sixth World Youth Day.
For you, dear young people, my warm paternal Blessing.
From the Vatican, 15 August 1990, Solemnity of
the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.