Pope John Paul II decided to make a stop in Taizé during his trip to France. The pope has been in Lyon since the previous day, and will also go to Paray-le-Monial, Ars and Annecy.
Large tents have been attached to the Church of Reconciliation. Seven thousand young people have arrived. Throughout the night, some of them take turns praying in silence until the following morning. At 8:30am, after having sung with the young people, the brothers leave the church to welcome the pope. The entire region is shrouded in a dense fog. The helicopters could not leave their hangars and so the pope has to come from Lyon in an ordinary car.
Entering the Church of Reconciliation, John Paul II sits down on an armchair of wood and straw. Brother Roger, surrounded by children, says a few words of welcome. Then the pope speaks to the young people. He explains why he has come to Taizé and what the Church expects of them:
“(…) Like you, pilgrims and friends of the community, the pope is only passing through. But one passes through Taizé as one passes close to a spring of water. The traveller stops, quenches his thirst and continues on his way. The brothers of the community, you know, do not want to keep you. They want, in prayer and silence, to enable you to drink the living water promised by Christ, to know his joy, to discern his presence, to respond to his call, then to set out again to witness to his love and to serve your brothers and sisters in your parishes, your schools, your universities, and in all your places of work.
Today in all the Churches and Christian communities, and even among the highest political leaders in the world, the Taizé Community is known for the trust always full of hope that it places in the young. It is above all because I share this trust and this hope that I have come here this morning.
Dear young people, to bring to the world the joyful news of the Gospel, the Church needs your enthusiasm and your generosity. You know, it can happen that your elders, after the difficult journey and the trials they have undergone, fall prey to fear or weariness and let the dynamism which is a mark of every Christian vocation grow weak. It can also happen that institutions, because of routine or the deficiencies of their members, are not sufficiently at the service of the Gospel message. Because of this, the Church needs the witness of your hope and your zeal in order to fulfil her mission better.
Do not be content to criticize passively or to wait for persons or institutions to become better. Go towards the parishes, the student organizations, the different movements and communities, and patiently bring them the force of your youth and the talents you have received. Bring your trust and support to the ministers of the Church; they are your servants in the name of Jesus, and for that reason you need them. The Church needs your presence and your participation. If you remain within the Church, you will of course at times be upset by divisions, internal tensions and the sorry state of its members, but you will receive from Christ, who is the Head, his Word of Truth, his own Life, and the Breath of Love that will enable you to love him faithfully and to make your life a success by risking it in a joyful gift for others. (…)”
After finishing his talk, the pope kneels down for a few moments of prayer in the midst of the brothers. All sing “Laudate omnes gentes, laudate Dominum” (“Praise the Lord, all nations”).
After finishing his talk, the pope kneels down for a few moments of prayer in the midst of the brothers. All sing “Laudate omnes gentes, laudate Dominum” (“Praise the Lord, all nations”). While the young people keep singing in the church and the tents, the pope goes downstairs into a nearby room to meet with the brothers. After greeting them one by one, he addresses the community.
The pope reminds the brothers that he has personally known the community for a long time: “I visited you when you were younger. But today you are even younger.” He recalls Brother Roger’s visits to Poland and his words concerning the Virgin Mary and the ministry of a universal pastor. So John Paul II “evidently felt obliged, not outwardly, but in his heart, to come and see you.” Alluding to the young adult European meetings that have taken place in Rome, the pope adds, “Rome is always open to your visit with the young.”
Then the pope leaves the community a written message that Brother Roger later placed in the Sources of Taizé, the book that sums up the essential intuitions of the community’s life.
It is time to go. John Paul II walks out, approaches his car, then suddenly decides to return to the church to greet the young people one last time. “I have to confess to you that I am leaving,” he tells them. “And with sadness. But the pope must obey! He has many superiors!” A peal of laughter rings out, quickly followed by applause, and the singing begins once again as the pope sets off.