Pope John Paul II, celebrating mass on Friday (March 24) before a crowd of some 100,000 Christians by the Sea of Galilee, focused his message on young believers—calling on them to choose the path of good over evil. In a voice that was stronger and clearer than at any time during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the pope's message reverberated across the Mount of Beatitudes.The Mount of Beatitudes, known in Israel by its Hebrew name, Mount Korazim, is the place where tradition holds that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. In one of the sermon's best-known sections, called the "beatitudes," Jesus says those who are blessed include those who are poor in spirit, meek, pure in heart, and peacemakers.Many in the crowd were overcome by emotion, tears streaming down their faces, while others waved yellow and white Vatican flags and sung hymns, as they heard the pontiff draw upon the sermon of Jesus."Now at the dawn of the third millennium, it is your turn to go out into the world to preach the message of the Ten Commandments and the beatitudes," the Pope said from a stage that overlooked a sparkling and tranquil Sea of Galilee.And in a message aimed directly at the many young people in the audience, John Paul said the Sermon on the Mount was as relevant today as it was nearly two thousand years ago."How many young people down the centuries have gathered around Jesus to learn the words of eternal life, as you are gathered here today?" he asked."How many young hearts have been inspired by the power of his personality and the compelling truth of his message? It is wonderful that you are here."The Pope urged the young people to listen to the words of Jesus when choosing between the competing voices in the world."The choice between good and evil, between life and death—which voice will the young people of the twenty-first century choose to follow?" the Pope asked."To put your faith in Jesus means choosing to believe what he says, no matter how strange it may seem, and choosing to reject the claims of evil, no matter how sensible or attractive they may seem."The Pope spent the rest of Friday visiting key Christian sites around the Sea of Galilee.The pontiff's visit to the green hills of Galilee—where, according to the New Testament, Jesus recruited his disciples, performed miracles and frequently preached to multitudes—was in sharp contrast to the turmoil of the pope's previous two days in Israel and the Palestinian territories.In the days immediately following his arrival in Israel on Tuesday (March 21), the Pope's itinerary cast a harsh spotlight on the political problems and deep historical divisions in the Middle East.But in Galilee, where the landscape has changed little since biblical times, the emphasis appeared to shift to the spiritual connection the Pope says he hopes to achieve by walking in the footsteps of Jesus.The weather on Friday also appeared to favor the Pope's message. After a night of storms, in which pilgrims sheltered in tents and buses, the sun burst through the clouds.Although there was intermittent rain, the beauty of the area was cast for much of the time in what some pilgrims thought was a "heavenly light."Even those who failed to reach the Mass on time said they had taken part in the spirit of the Pope's pilgrimage to Galilee.One of them was Mario Ridrejo, a Roman Catholic from Seville in Spain. The bus carrying him and the rest of his group arrived late.Ridrejo told Ecumenical News International: "We have seen the environment, the spirit [of Christianity] that joined us here in Galilee."He added that many young people had been inspired by the Pope to become priests and nuns in order to dedicate their lives fully to the service of the Lord.Copyright © 2000 Ecumenical News International. Used with permission.

Related Elsewhere

See our earlier coverage of the Pope's visit to Israel:Pope tells Palestinians to Seek Hope in the Place Where Jesus was Born | Kiss of ground symbolic as John Paul II calls for Palestinian homeland. (Mar. 24, 2000) At Jerusalem's Holocaust Memorial, Pope Regrets Persecution of Jews | Catholic Church 'deeply saddened by anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians.' (Mar. 24, 2000)More coverage of the Pope's Sermon on the Mount is available at CNN, ABCNews, The New York Times, The Jerusalem Post, and other publications.The text of the speech, as well as the Pope's other speeches in the Holy Land, are available at the Vatican's Web site.For more resources about the papal trip to the Holy Land, see The Jerusalem Post, EWTN, and The New York Times.