Don´t Misuse Your Freedom, Pope Urges Youths

20,000 Gather in Preparation for World Day

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 22, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II urged young people not to "misuse your freedom" when he addressed Romans at a preparatory meeting for World Youth Day 2002.



The meeting Thursday night, which gathered more than 20,000 young people in St. Peter´s Square, enabled the Bishop of Rome to prepare members of his diocese for the July 23-28 event in Toronto.

The Holy Father, who looked in good physical form, arrived in the square in his "popemobile," greeting the young faithful.

The Pope had a blunt message for his audience: "Youths of the third millennium, do not misuse your freedom."

Some of Italy´s leading singers were on hand to perform. And members of the audience gave testimonies of faith.

A noticeable silence fell over the crowd when Brennan and Erika Basnicki of Canada spoke. Their father died Sept. 11, shortly after having taken a job as marketing director of a computer firm based in the World Trade Center.

Learning of the death, Brennan said that at first he felt "anger and rage at those who had so cowardly taken the life of my father. I wanted revenge."

In the days immediately after, he took refuge in prayer and in the Eucharist. Brennan meditated on the death of Christ, and reflected on the sorrow of his disciples. There he said he discovered the strength of Jesus´ resurrection.

"This event is the basis for all hope for Christians across the world," he said. "This just shows us that out of every evil act, a greater good can be accomplished. In times like this, we must continue to have hope."

Brennan´s sister Erika, also a university student, then spoke. "On Sept. 11, a dark cloud fell over the world," she said. "It had hoped to fill us with fear, but it did not succeed. Where the twin towers once stood, are now two giant columns of light that penetrate the darkness and reach toward the skies."

The Pope had a blunt message for his audience: "Youths of the third millennium, do not misuse your freedom."

"If misused, freedom can separate us from God," he explained. "It can make us lose the dignity that has been conferred on us. When it is not formed by the Gospel, freedom can be transformed into slavery: the slavery of sin and of eternal death."

"Do not lose the great dignity of children of God that has been given to you!" the Holy Father exhorted the youths. "Subject yourselves only to Christ, who desires your good and your true joy."

"So you will discover that only by adhering to the will of God can we be light of the world and salt of the earth!" he concluded.