Arrival Speech

Author: Pope John Paul II

Text of Pope John Paul II's speech upon his arrival at Denver's Stapleton International Airport on Thursday, August 12, 1993:

I greatly appreciate your generous words of welcome. The World Youth Day being celebrated this year in Denver gives me the opportunity to meet you, and through you to express once again to the American people my sentiments of deep esteem and friendship. I thank you and Mrs. Clinton for your kind gesture in coming here personally to welcome me.

I take this opportunity to greet the other representatives of the federal government of the state of Colorado and of the city of Denver who are present here, and to thank all those who have contributed in any way to preparing this visit. I am grateful to the bishops of the United States for their part in organizing the eighth World Youth day, and in particular to Archbishop (J. Francis) Stafford of Denver and the Catholic church in Colorado for serving as the local hosts for this important international event. I am aware that the United States is suffering greatly from the recent flooding in the Midwest. I have felt close to the American people in their tragedy and have prayed for the victims. I invoke Almighty God's strength and comfort upon all who have been affected by this calamity.

There is a special joy in coming to America for the celebration of this World Youth Day. A nation which is itself still young according to historical standards is hosting young people gathered from all over the world for a serious reflection on the theme of life: the human life which is God's marvelous gift to each one of us, and the transcendent life which Jesus Christ our Savior offers to those who believe in his name.

I come to Denver to listen to the young people gathered here, to experience their inexhaustible quest for life. Each successive World Youth Day has been a confirmation of young people's openness to the meaning of life as a gift received, a gift to which they are eager to respond by striving for a better world for themselves and their fellow human beings.

I believe that we would correctly interpret their deepest aspirations by saying that what they ask is that society -- especially the leaders of nations and all who control the destinies of peoples -- accept them as true partners in the construction of a more humane, more just, more compassionate world. They ask to be able to contribute their specific ideas and energies to this task.

The well-being of the world's children and young people must be of immense concern to all who have public responsibilities. In my pastoral visits to the church in every part of the world I have been deeply moved by the almost universal conditions of difficulty in which young people grow up and live. Too many sufferings are visited upon them by natural calamities, famines, epidemics, by economic and political crises, by the atrocities of wars. And where material conditions are at least adequate, other obstacles arise, not the least of which is the breakdown of family values and stability.

In developed countries, a serious moral crisis is already affecting the lives of many young people, leaving them adrift, often without hope, and conditioned to look only for instant gratification. Yet everywhere there are young men and women deeply concerned about the world around them, ready to give the best of themselves in service to others and particularly sensitive to life's transcendent meaning.

But how do we help them? Only by instilling a high moral vision can a society ensure that its young people are given the possibility to mature as free and intelligent human beings, endowed with a robust sense of responsibility to the common good, capable of working with others to create a community and a nation with a strong moral fiber.

America was built on such a vision, and the American people possess the intelligence and will to meet the challenge of rededicating themselves with renewed vigor to fostering the truths on which this country was founded and by which it grew. Those truths are enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and they still today receive a broad consensus among Americans. Those truths sustain values which have led people all over the world to look to America with hope and respect.

To all Americans, without exception, I present this invitation: Let us pause and reason together. To educate without a value system based on truth is to abandon young people to moral confusion, personal insecurity and easy manipulation. No country, not even the most powerful, can endure if it deprives its own children of this essential good.

Respect for the dignity and worth of every person, integrity and responsibility, as well as understanding, compassion and solidarity towards others survive only if they are passed on in families, in schools and through the communications media.

America has a strong tradition of respect for the individual, for human dignity and human rights. I gladly acknowledged this during my previous visit to the United States in 1987 and I would like to repeat today the hope I expressed on that occasion: "America, you are beautiful and blessed in so many ways ... But your best beauty and your richest blessing is found in the human person: in each man, woman and child, in every immigrant, in every native born son and daughter ... The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones. The best traditions of your land presume respect for those who cannot defend themselves. If you want equal justice for all, and true freedom and lasting peace, then, America, defend life! All the great causes that are yours today will have meaning only to the extent that you guarantee the right to life and protect the human person."'

Text of Pope John Paul II's prepared remarks to about 85,000 young people at Mile High Stadium on Thursday night.

Dear young people, The Spirit of God has brought us to this Eighth World Youth Day. On eight successive occasions young people from all parts of the world have heard the call of the church and have traveled in order to be together -- to be together with their bishops and the pope: fellow travelers on the path of life in search of Christ.

It is he, Jesus Christ, the true life who gives hope and purpose to our earthly existence, opens our minds and hearts to the goodness and beauty of the world around us, to solidarity and friendship with our fellow human beings, to intimate communion with God himself, in a love that goes beyond all limits of time and space, to eternal unassailable happiness.

This World Youth Day has brought us to Denver, a stupendous setting in the heart of the United States of America.

I greet each one of you: "A great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues." I greet your bishops, your priests, your spiritual guides, your families.

I thank you for being here. I thank everyone: Archbishop Stafford of Denver and his fellow workers; Archbishop Keeler, the president of the Bishops' Conference, and all the bishops; the Bishops' Commission for the organization of this World Youth Day; Cardinal Pironio and the Pontifical Council for the Laity; the civil authorities; the people of Denver and Colorado who are our gracious hosts; the volunteers who are making sure that everything runs smoothly -- I thank you all for your kindness, your hospitality and your good will.

Most of you are members of the Catholic Church; but others are from other Christian churches and communities, and I greet each one with sincere friendship. In spite of divisions among Christians, "all those justified by faith through baptism are incorporated into Christ ... brothers and sisters in the Lord," one of discovering together ever more fully the riches of the Gospel message of life and love.

I greet all of you who have come from ever corner of the United States, from every diocese of this vast country. Among you there is one group which I wish to mention with particular esteem: the Native American peoples. Thank you for bringing the richness and color of your special heritage to the World Youth Day. May Christ truly be the way, the truth and the life of your peoples!

Many are from the other two countries of North America: from Canada; and so many from Mexico. Some of you are from the Caribbean. Others from Central America. And from all the countries of South America. Many more are from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Pacific, and so many from Europe.

At this point I wish to greet some of the groups present. (In Spanish) An especially affectionate greeting to all the Spanish-speaking young people present: those from the United States, those from Latin America and from Spain. You are united, as heirs of a vibrant Catholic tradition, for which the church is giving special thanks to God on the occasion for the fifth centenary of the evangelization of the Americas. May your generation be as constant and generous as past generations in making Jesus Christ known and loved.

(In French) To the French-speaking pilgrims, I hope that this journey of faith will strengthen your resolve to be ever more committed apostles to the world of youth. I greet those of you from France, and from Canada. A special word of encouragement to the young people of Haitian origin, and I pray for the peace and harmony of your country.

(In Italian) To the young people from Italy: thanks for responding to the invitation to come to Denver in such large numbers. I am aware of the serious spiritual preparations you have made for this pilgrimage, and I am confident that you will reap benefits for your Christian life and witness.

(In German) I cordially greet the German-speaking young people who have come to express their faith in Jesus Christ, who came to give life in its fullness. May these days of prayer and reflection, of meeting and joyful friendship with young people from all over the world, help you to be ever stronger and more confident in your service to the church and to the world.

(In Portuguese) Dear friends from Portugal and from Brazil, Jesus Christ is the hope of the world. May you discover his friendship and company ever more deeply during these days in Denver.

(In Polish) Praise be Jesus Christ! ... Denver is the continuation of Czestochowa. There we watched with the Black Madonna. Today, in Denver, we invoke her intercession on the Polish nation, especially on its young people who must face the challenge of restoring truth and energy to society. ... May Christ's promise of life, and life in abundance come fully true in your lives and in your works of apostolate and service.

(In Russian) Young people of the Russian language, be always open to the light of Christ, so that you can be his faithful witnesses.

(In Lithuanian) Young people from Lithuania: I am eagerly looking forward to my visit to your homeland in September. May the life and light of Christ illumine your hearts and give you courage!

(In Croatian) Dear young people from Croatia, all of us gathered here for the World Youth Day are close to you in the very difficult situation of conflict which is causing so much suffering in the Balkans. May God inspire the leaders of the region and the international community to bring a speedy and just peace, and thus avoid further casualties and destruction.

(In Arabic) The peace of Christ be with all the Arab-speaking young people who are here.

(In Tagalog) I cordially greet all the young people from the Philippines and of Philippine descent. May Christ always be the light of your lives and may he strengthen you for the challenges before you as witnesses to other young people.

(In Swahili) God bless you all with faith and hope and love. (In Korean) May you be worthy heirs of Saint Andrew Kim and his companion martyrs. They loved Christ to the end. May you too be his faithful disciples.

(In Vietnamese) Vietnamese young people, be strong and courageous in your Christian life.

We have come to Denver as pilgrims. We are continuing the journey made by millions of young people in the previous World Youth Days: to Rome, to Buenos Aires, to Santiago de Compostela, to Czestochowa. Pilgrims set out for a destination. In our case it is not so much a place or a shrine that we seek to honor. Ours is a pilgrimage to a modern city, a symbolic destination: the "metropolis" is the place which determines the lifestyle and the history of a large part of the human family at the end of the 20th century.

This modern city of Denver is set in the beautiful natural surroundings of the Rocky Mountains as if to put the work of human hands in relationship with the works of the Creator. We are therefore searching for the reflection of God not only in the beauty of nature but also in humanity's Christ: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."

My purpose in this first meeting with you is to invite you to enter into the depths of your hearts, and to live the next few days as a real encounter with Jesus Christ.

Of course we are here to listen to one another: I to you, and you to the pope. But above all we are in Denver to hear the one true word of life -- the eternal word who was in the beginning with God; "through whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made that was made."

Young people of America and of the world, listen to what Christ the redeemer is saying to you! "To all who received him, who believe in his name, he gave power to become children of God."

The World Youth Day challenges you to be fully conscious of who you are as God's dearly beloved sons and daughters.

Your pilgrimage through the city of Denver will lead you to meditate on Christ's promise of abundant life at different places along the way.

At St. Elizabeth's Church the Holy Year Cross will remind you where to look for the true life that Jesus gives. Jesus says: "Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." He says this, not because he does not love you enough, but because he is leading you to the discovery of authentic life and love. The life which Jesus gives can only be experiences through self-giving love, and self-giving love always implies some form of self-sacrifice: "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."

At Holy Ghost Church your pilgrimage will lead you to Christ in the blessed eucharist. In prayer before the blessed sacrament exposed you can pour out your hearts to him, but especially you must listen to what he has to say to each one of you. Christ's favorite words to young people are "Fear not" and "Come follow me." Who knows what the Lord will ask of you, young people of America, young men and women from Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania?

At the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception your pilgrimage will lead you to the icon of Our Lady of the New Advent. Mary, the mother of the redeemer, was her son's first and best disciple. She will be present at every state of our pilgrimage. She is the best guide we can have: she leads us to Christ and says: "Do whatever he tells you."

Tomorrow, Friday, is meant to be a day of solidarity and penance. As a gesture of love towards our less fortunate brothers and sisters we are all asked to make a sacrifice at tomorrow's midday meal and to give what we save for St. Joseph's Hospital of Kitovu in Uganda, where many AIDS patients are being cared for with great love and attention.

That region has been drastically affected by this dreaded disease and thousands of children have been left orphans as a result of it. Our gesture is a small sign of our love, an invitation to society not to neglect those who are suffering, especially when that suffering, which Jesus takes to himself, can only be alleviated by the close, personal, caring presence of others.

Jesus has called each one of you to Denver for a purpose! You must live these days in such a way that, when the time comes to return home, each one of you will have a clearer idea of what Christ expects of you. Each one must have the courage to go and spread the good news among the people of the last part of the 20th century, in particular among young people of your own age, who will take the church and society into the next century.

Lord Jesus Christ, send your Holy Spirit upon the young people who have set out to find you in the heart of the modern metropolis, especially during the catecheses of these days.

Be with us all at the great gathering of the pilgrims on the path of life, when at the vigil of the Feast of Mary's Assumption into heaven and at the Mass on that day, the young people of the United States of America, of the world, will proclaim and celebrate their faith in you, you who alone have the words which unlock the depths of the mystery of true life.

O Mary, Our Lady of the New Advent, who kept all these things, pondering them in your heart, teach these young people to be good listeners to your son, the word of life.

Pray for them that no barriers will stand in the way of their discovering the new life which your son brought into the world.

Virgin daughter of Sion, guide each step of our way along the path that leads to life!

Young people of the Eighth World Youth Day, rise to the challenge which Denver sets before you: Follow the "pilgrim" cross; go in search of God, because he can also be found in the heart of a modern city; recognize him in so many young people full of hope and nobel ideals; feel the breath of the Holy Spirit among so many different races and cultures, all united in acknowledging Christ as the way, the truth and life of every human being. Dear young friend, in the name of Jesus Christ, I greet you and bless you! With great joy I look forward to our next meeting. Hasta la vista!