At 7:15pm Benedict XVI travelled by Popemobile to Josip Jelacic Square, Zagreb's main square, capable of accommodating 50,000 persons, where he held a prayer vigil with the youth.
Before the Pope's arrival some young persons carried in procession the image of the Virgin of the Stone Gate, protectress of Zagreb, and placed it at the podium.
After reading some verses of the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians, two young persons offered their witness.
Afterward, the Holy Father gave his address. Referring to the reading in which St. Paul invites the community to "rejoice in the Lord always", the pope said that the Apostle's experience, which he writes while imprisoned, "reveals how it is possible, along the journey of our lives, to preserve joy even in moments of darkness".
"We all know", he stated, "that lodged in the heart of every person is a strong desire for happiness. Every action, every decision, every intention holds hidden within itself this deep, natural desire. But all too often we realize that we put our trust in things that cannot fulfill that desire, things that turn out to be shifting sands. At such moments we recognize our need for something 'greater', capable of giving meaning to our daily lives".
"This time of youth...", he continued "is a time of vast horizons, of powerful emotions, but also a time of concern about demanding, long-term choices, a time of challenges in your studies and in the workplace, a time of wondering about the mystery of pain and suffering. What is more, this wonderful time of life is marked by a deep longing which, far from canceling everything else, actually lifts it up and fulfils it".
"Jesus speaks to you today, through the Gospel and his Holy Spirit. He is your contemporary! He seeks you even before you seek him! While fully respecting your freedom, he approaches each one of you and offers himself as the authentic and decisive response to the longing deep within your hearts, to your desire for a life worth living. Let him take you by the hand! Let him become more and more your friend and companion along life's journey. Put your trust in him and he will never disappoint you!".
"Jesus enables you to know at first hand the love of God the Father; he helps you realize that your happiness comes from his friendship, from fellowship with him. Why? Because we have been created and saved by love, and it is only in love, the love which desires and seeks the good of others, that we truly experience the meaning of life and find happiness in living it, even amid difficulties, trials and disappointments, even when it means swimming against the tide".
Benedict XVI emphasized that "Jesus is not a Teacher who deceives his disciples: he tells us clearly that walking by his side calls for commitment and personal sacrifice, but it is worth the effort". In this sense he encouraged the youth to not let themselves "be led astray by enticing promises of easy success, by lifestyles which regard appearances as more important than inner depth. Do not yield to the temptation of putting all your trust in possessions, in material things, while abandoning the search for the truth which is always "greater", which guides us like a star high in the heavens to where Christ would lead us. Let it guide you to the very heights of God!".
While stressing that the saints would give them support during their youth, the Pope pointed out that "here in Croatia, ... Blessed Ivan Merz ... discovered the beauty of the Catholic faith and came to understand that his own calling in life was to experience, and to help others experience, the friendship of Christ. ... He died on 10 May 1928, at only 32 years of age, after a few months of sickness, offering his life for the Church and for young people".
"This young life, completely given over to love, bears the fragrance of Christ; it invites all of us not to be afraid and to entrust ourselves to the Lord as did the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, who is venerated and loved here under the title of Our Lady of the Stone Gate," he concluded.
After the address there followed a moment of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which remained exposed throughout the night for the faithful who wanted to remain in prayer, preparing themselves for Sunday's Mass.
The Holy Father said goodbye to the youth and travelled to the nunciature for dinner and to spend the night.
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