VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- In a meeting with 20,000 young people at the Vatican Thursday, Pope John Paul II urged the youngsters not to succumb to the allures of what he called "the ephemeral culture." Instead, he urged them to discover a fundamental truth of Christianity: "Without God, the cross crushes us, with God, it redeems and saves us."

      The Holy Father met with the youth delegation at the basilica of St. John Lateran as they prepared for the celebration of the 13th annual World Youth Day, which will be Palm Sunday. Led by Cardinal Jean- Marie Lustiger of Paris, a French delegation transferred the ceremonial cross symbolic of World Youth Day to a delegation of Italians led by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's vicar for Rome. That transfer signaled the passing of the role of host from France, where the last World Youth Day celebration was held, to Rome, where the event will be held in 2000.

      The cross was also the central theme in Pope John Paul's remarks. Every man must carry a cross in life, he said, and to ignore the reality of suffering is to ignore the truth about the human condition. "We are made to live," he said, "but we cannot eliminate suffering and trials from our personal stories."

      The "ephemeral culture" seeks in vain to disregard this reality, the Pope warned. That culture, he continued, seeks to emphasize only what seems attractive, and concentrates solely on "a rapid career of self-affirmation at any price." He insisted that young people must recognize: "This is not the way that leads to joy and to life, but the path that plunges into sin and death."

      The Pope contrasted the outlook of the "ephemeral culture" with the words of Christ: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." When one accepts one's own cross, the Holy Father concluded, pain and suffering can be transformed, and the Cross of Christ can become a source of strength and hope.

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April 6, 1998 volume 9, no. 68         DAILY CATHOLIC