Homily - Santiago de Compostela
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Homily of Cardinal Angelo Sodano
Secretary of State of His Holiness and Papal Legate
at the closing Mass of the European Meeting of Young People

(Santiago de Compostela, 8 August 1999)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Young People of Europe,

Our Christian faith has led us, like a bright star, to this square, the witness to a thousand years of pilgrimage to the tomb of the Apostle James and the eloquent symbol of the happy goal of the centuries-old “Camino de Santiago”, which has been a key factor for bringing together the peoples of Europe, so different from one another, and for increasing their mutual understanding.

Today we give thanks for the path which you have travelled and shared on your pilgrim way to this City of Compostela, the spiritual cradle of Europe and expression of its unity. We give thanks also for the memorable experiences of fraternal hospitality, constructive dialogue and ecclesial communion which you have had during these days of the European Meeting of Young People. They have been days of peace and reconciliation, of friendship and solidarity. A time of grace, a true “jubilee”, which ought not to end with the conclusion of this Meeting but which should continue along the roads and through the cities and nations of Europe, bringing light and hope to the work, life and culture of the men and women of the Continent.

1. Greetings from the Pope

On this solemn occasion it is my great pleasure to extend a heartfelt greeting to all of you. In the Holy FatherÂ’s name, and in my own, I greet Archbishop Julián Barrio Barrio, Pastor of the Archdiocese of Santiago, host to this European Meeting of Young People. Through him I thank all the members of the Church in Compostela for the great effort which they have put into preparing this Meeting. I greet the Cardinals and Bishops who are concelebrating and who have come here to Santiago with the young people of their Dioceses. I cordially greet the priests, and the men and women Religious, and those responsible for the pastoral care of youth. I am grateful for the presence of His Royal Highness Don Felipe de Borbón, Prince of Asturias, and the other civil authorities who have wished to be here; I am grateful to them for the generous cooperation which they have provided.

In a special way I address you, the youth representing the different peoples of Europe: Latin and German, Celt and Anglo-Saxon, Nordic and Slav. My words are for you, who are the hope of the Church and of society on this beloved Old Continent of ours.

For all of you I am the bearer of the greetings and affection of the Holy Father Pope John Paul II, who asks me to reaffirm his esteem for you and the trust he has in you. The Pope expects much from your Christian commitment and your courageous witness. On the threshold of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the important moment for which we are preparing, you are the generation called to be the principal actors in the first decades of the new millennium. Your responsibility is great. Remember what the Holy Father said in his message which we heard yesterday during the Vigil: “Dear Young People: do not fail Christ who, full of love, calls you to follow him . . . Take in your hands the pilgrim’s staff — which is the word of God — and travel the roads of Europe announcing with courage the Good News of Christ.” The Pope invited you to be the new apostles of the Lord in building “a united Europe, committed to peace, faithful to its Christian roots and genuine values . . . a Europe capable still of being a beacon of civilization and of encouraging world progress”.

2. The ever relevant message of Christ

In the Gospel reading which we have just heard, Jesus approaches the disciples, walking on the water, and says to them: “Courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” (Mt 14:27). Again today Jesus addresses you, the young people of Europe, and says to you: Do not be afraid! Even if the waves of self-centredness strike hard against the common boat of Europe and the winds of the so-called culture of death howl around you . . . take courage, do not waver! Christ, the Lord of time and history, is always with you, ready to reach out and catch you — as he did with the Apostle Peter — when uncertainty, doubt and fear threaten to drown your youthful enthusiasm and optimism. You too can walk on the water without going under if you keep your eyes on the One who calls you by your own name and says: “Come”. Always remember this passage from the Gospel in your difficult moments. Don’t forget that the calm comes after the storm, that suffering and trials accepted with trust in God give way to joyful serenity, to mature freedom, to the joyful confession of Jesus as the Lord of one’s life, faithful friend, close and fraternal Saviour, giver of life and hope. Do not be ashamed to bow down before him — as the disciples did in the boat when he calmed the wind — and to say to him: “Truly you are the Son of God”.

3. A call to action

Dear young people, in the First Reading we listened to the words which God addressed to the Prophet Elijah: “Wait for the Lord on the mountain, the Lord will pass by” (1 Kings 19:11). First, there came a wind like a hurricane, but the Lord was not in that wind. Then came an earthquake and afterwards a fire, but the Lord was not in those either. Finally, a tiny whispering sound was heard, and Elijah hid his face for he knew that it was the Lord. Today, on this Mountain of Joy, the Lord is again present among you and he calls you, especially you young people, to the noble task of building the Europe of the Third Millennium upon the great values that Pope John Paul II has always highlighted in his meetings with young people: life, love and solidarity.

Remember the experience of Elijah: the Lord is present in a tiny whispering sound. Don’t give in therefore to the temptation of noise, force or war. Reject narrow and violent ideologies; stay far away from all forms of exclusive nationalism and intolerance. As the Holy Father said in the Meeting of European Young People at Loreto: “to you has been entrusted the mission of opening new paths to fraternity among peoples, building the one human family, and coming to understand more deeply the law of reciprocity in giving and receiving, of self-giving and of the acceptance of others” (Message during the Vigil, 9 September 1995, No. 3).

4. Towards a Europe of the spirit

The Church and Europe are two realities intimately united in their being and destiny. Together they have journeyed down the centuries and are marked by the same history. In their meeting they have enriched each other with values that are not only the soul of European civilization but also part of the heritage of the whole of humanity. For this reason Europe cannot abandon Christianity as its travelling companion on the road to the future, just as people on a journey cannot abandon their reasons for living and going forward without falling into a serious crisis. As the Pope has indicated on many occasions, the crises of European men and women are the crises of Christian men and women, and the crises of European culture are the crises of Christian culture.

Young people of Europe, this is the challenge before you! You must give to the Europe of today the hope that you carry within you. Of course, it is not a question of creating a parallel Europe to the existing one but of showing this Europe that its soul and identity are deeply rooted in Christianity, in order to offer Europe the key to interpreting its specific vocation in the world.

European unity will be lasting and fruitful if it is based on the human and Christian values that pervade its common soul, such as the dignity of the human person, a deep sense of justice and freedom, dedication to work, the spirit of initiative, love of the family, respect for life, tolerance, and a desire for cooperation and peace. Upon these values, you, the young Europeans of the Year 2000, must forge that reality which the Pope has defined as the “great European Community of the Spirit” (Speech to the Polish Parliament, 11 June 1999, No. 6), that is to say, the united Europe of the Third Millennium!

5. The maternal presence of Mary

Dear friends gathered here from all corners of the Continent: I would like to conclude by invoking Mary, who in a sense can be called the “Mother and Queen of Europe”. Never forget that the great event of the Incarnation of the Word and the Redemption of the world, which the universal Church is getting ready to celebrate in the Jubilee of the Year 2000, was made possible by Mary’s positive reply to the message of the Angel: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word”. Never in human history did so much depend, as at that moment, on the “yes” to God of a human creature. For that reason I invite you, the young people from the whole of Europe, to receive her in your lives today and for ever, just as she, twenty centuries ago, accepted in her womb the Author of life. Let Mary be at your side during these years of your youth, which coincide with the birth of the new millennium.

I commend the results of this Meeting to the Virgin Mary, GodÂ’s beloved daughter, the perfect woman, the model of service and joy, that she, the pilgrim of faith, may walk with you along the paths of peace, and that one day, at the end of your lives, she may welcome you into heaven with the same smiling gesture with which she welcomed you on your arrival at the Gate of Glory of the Cathedral of Compostela. With her help, and with the powerful intercession of the Apostle James, may all of you together build the Europe of hope.