31 March 2020
35 years since the letter “Dilecti amici”
On March 31, 1985 Pope John Paul II addressed a letter to young people entitled "Dilecti amici," the origin of WYD and the annual messages to the youth of the world
When the United Nations declared 1985 the International Year of Youth, St. John Paul II wanted to address an Apostolic Letter to young people all over the world. Today, in the centenary year of the birth of World Youth Day’s founder, we can read this letter as part of his spiritual testament to the youth of many different generations.
The words of St. Peter the Apostle are repeated in this letter like a refrain: “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15) With this exhortation, and with the parable of the rich young man, the Pope shows young people how rich and how full of hope each of their lives are. From the document emerges an anthropological vision of man, created in the image of God and destined for eternal life, which characterizes all of his papal teachings.
Facing the specific challenges of the modern world, St. John Paul II encourages young people to have the courage to ask questions like the young man in the Gospel, and to seek answers in personal prayer and in the scriptures. He exhorts them to discover their Christian vocation and to live their lives from the point of view of a gift of self. But, above all, he wishes that young people would discover for themselves personally the loving gaze of Jesus: “It is also my hope that, after you have made the discernment of the essential and important questions for you youth, for the plan of the whole life that lies before you, you will experience what the Gospel means when it says: “Jesus, looking upon him, loved him.” May you experience a look like that! May you experience the truth that he, Christ, looks upon you with love!” (n. 7)
Given the richness of its content, the letter “Dilecti amici” has become a source of inspiration for catechists and youth leaders, and has been repeatedly referenced in papal teaching, as well as during the 2018 synodal process.