Yesterday, May 18th, was the hundred year anniversary of the birth of Pope Saint John Paul II. To mark the late pontiff’s birth centenary, Pope Francis sent a message to the youth of Kraków, Poland, and the whole world.

“Saint John Paul II was a gift of God to the Church and to Poland, your motherland. His earthly pilgrimage, which began on 18 May 1920 in Wadowice and ended 15 years ago in Rome, was marked by his passion for life and by a fascination with the mystery of God, of the world and of humankind.” 

Pope Francis remembered JPII as a “great man of mercy,” saying “everyone had an experience of him – or, perhaps, everyone experienced him.”

“In the light of God’s merciful love, he captured the specificity and beauty of the vocation of women and men, he understood the needs of children, of young people and of adults. Today, you too can experience him, and know of his life and his teachings, which are available to everyone thanks to the internet.”

He implored the youth of the world to accept Christ, saying “this is what I hope for each and every one of you: to enter Christ with your whole life.”

“I entrust you all to the intercession of Saint John Paul II and I bless you, wholeheartedly. And you, please, do not forget to pray for me.”

Watch Pope Francis’ video message below:

Read a full transcript of Pope Francis’ video message below:

Dear young people, this year we celebrate 100 years since the birth of Saint John Paul II.

It is a wonderful opportunity for me to address you, young people of Krakow, thinking about how much he loved young people, and remembering my presence among you for WYD in 2016.

Saint John Paul II was a gift of God to the Church and to Poland, your motherland. His earthly pilgrimage, which began on 18 May 1920 in Wadowice and ended 15 years ago in Rome, was marked by his passion for life and by a fascination with the mystery of God, of the world and of humankind.

I remember him as a great man of mercy: I am thinking of his Encyclical Dives in Misericordia, of the canonisation of Saint Faustina and of the establishment of Divine Mercy Sunday.

In the light of God’s merciful love, he captured the specificity and beauty of the vocation of women and men, he understood the needs of children, of young people and of adults, also considering cultural and social conditioning. Everyone had an experience of him. Or, perhaps, everyone experienced him?

Today, you too can experience him, and know of his life and his teachings, which are available to everyone thanks to the internet. Each and every one of you, dear boys and girls, bears the imprint of your family, with its joys and sorrows.

Love and care for the family is a characteristic feature of John Paul II. His teachings are a secure point of reference for finding concrete solutions to difficulties and to the challenges that modern-day families face.

But personal and family problems are not an obstacle on the road to holiness and happiness. They weren’t for young Karol Wojtyła, either, who suffered the loss of his mother, brother and father.

As a student he experienced the atrocities of Nazism, that took so many of his friends from him. After the war, as a priest and bishop, he was forced to face Atheistic Communism. Difficulties, even tough ones, are a proof of maturity and of faith; a test which can only be passed based on the power of Christ, who died and rose again.

John Paul II reminded the whole Church of this in his first Encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, where it says, “The man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly must with his unrest, uncertainty and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death draw near to Christ. He must, so to speak, enter into Him with all his own self”.

Dear young people, this is what I hope for each and every one of you: to enter Christ with your whole life. And I hope that the celebrations of the centenary of the birth of Saint John Paul II will inspire within you the desire to walk bravely with Jesus, who is “the Lord of risk, he is the Lord of the eternal ‘more’. As He did on Pentecost, the Lord wants to work one of the greatest miracles we can experience: He wants to turn your hands, my hands, our hands into signs of reconciliation, of communion, of creation. He wants your hands, boys and girls: He wants your hands to continue building the world of today”.

I entrust you all to the intercession of Saint John Paul II and I bless you, wholeheartedly. And you, please, do not forget to pray for me.

Thank you! 

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