Holy Father calls youth to "become true friends of Jesus"

( [email protected] ) Nov 27, 2003 08:48 AM EST

Bratislava, Slovakia - Pope John Paul II ended on Sunday 14th of september his 4 days apostolic visit to Slovakia, calling the young to "become true friends of Jesus Christ".

Addressing the young people present in the mass, in which more than 250,000 believers gathered from the entire central Europe for likely their last chance to see the Pope, born in neighbouring Poland as Karol Wojtyla, he said: "You are the hope of the Church and of society; you are the hope of the Pope! Do not be afraid to become true friends of Jesus. Learn from Him how to love this world properly and you will build with His help the civilization of love."

Pope John Paul II arrived in Bratislava on Thursday, celebrated an open-air mass in Banska Bystrica on Friday, and another in eastern town Roznava on Saturday, than returned to Bratislava on the closing mass at the Petrzalka esplanade.

At the end of the Mass, during which he beatified Bishop Vasil' Hopko and Sister Zdenka Cecilia Schelingova, Pope John Paul thanked God for "loving slovak nation" and continued: "never be ashamed of the evangelium! Take care of it in your heart as of the most precious treasure, from which you can draw the light and strenght to every day life"

On Sunday afternoon Pope John Paul finished the third visit to Slovakia. Previously visited Slovakia in 1990, when it was part of the Czechoslovak Federation, and again in 1995, two years after the federal partition.