Skip to comments.Pope arrives in Toronto, praises intelligence, hearts of young people
Posted on 07/23/2002 7:26:33 PM PDT by Salvation
POPE-ARRIVE (UPDATED) Jul-23-2002 (1,130 words) With photos. xxxi
Pope arrives in Toronto, praises intelligence, hearts of young people
By John Thavis
Catholic News Service
TORONTO (CNS) -- Arriving in Toronto for World Youth Day celebrations, Pope John Paul II said the mega-gathering would help young people find spiritual direction in a world full of social and ethical tensions.
At a brief welcoming ceremony July 23 at Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International Airport, the pope praised the "gifts of intelligence and heart" that make young people the future of humanity.
But he warned that they also were affected by widespread conflict and injustice in the modern world.
"Too many lives begin and end without joy, without hope. That is one of the principal reasons for World Youth Day. Young people are coming together to commit themselves, in the strength of their faith in Jesus Christ, to the great cause of people and human solidarity," he said.
The pope, seated on a platform next to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, pronounced his short talk in a relatively strong voice. He looked alert after a nine-hour flight from Rome.
Welcoming the pontiff, Chretien said World Youth Day offered a "challenge to young people to fully live their faith, to fully engage in their societies and to believe they can make a difference by demonstrating their commitment in daily life."
The pope's Canadian hosts had planned to lower him from his plane to the tarmac, but Pope John Paul decided instead to walk down the plane's stairs, moving very slowly and held tightly by an aide. Then he was pushed on a wheeled platform into a hangar decorated with Canadian and Vatican flags.
The pope thanked Canadians for hosting this year's youth encounter, and he reminded them that their country was built on religious values that are "essential to good living and to human happiness."
He said the core of Canada's heritage was the "spiritual and transcendent vision of life based on Christian revelation," which has helped the country develop as a free, democratic and caring society.
Those values must be preserved today, the pope said.
"In a world of great social and ethical strains, and confusion about the very purpose of life, Canadians have an incomparable treasure to contribute -- on condition that they preserve what is deep and good and valid in their own heritage," he said.
For the 82-year-old pope, it was the start of one of the longer trips of his pontificate, an 11-day journey that was to take him to Guatemala and Mexico for canonization ceremonies.
His July 23-29 stay in Canada was to feature three major World Youth Day events with young people aged 16-35: an official welcoming ceremony July 25, a prayer and music vigil July 27 and a closing Mass July 28.
Some 215,000 young people from more than 170 countries registered for World Youth Day, but organizers were hoping more than half a million would turn out for the final Mass in Downsview Park, a former military base in Toronto.
At Toronto's Exhibition Place, many of the thousands of young people did not notice the pope's arrival, broadcast on a distant jumbo screen, but those closer to the screen cheered, "John Paul, John Paul, John Paul." As the pope stepped off the plane and waved, many in the crowd cheered and waved back at the screen.
After the pope's speech, he greeted young people from many countries, including some with disabilities and three with terminal illnesses. He pulled one young girl toward him and planted a kiss on her forehead; she left the stage in tears.
Julia Henn, 19, of Germany, was one of those who greeted the pope.
"It was really amazing," she said. "Young people here are so eager to see him. This pope is special to young people. He invented World Youth Day, and we know he cares very much for us."
She said everyone was amazed when the pope walked down the airplane stairs.
"He still has a lot of energy. I think this is a good sign that he'll make World Youth Day a great event," she said.
Immediately after the welcoming ceremony, the pope left by helicopter for an island retreat for several days of rest and meditation -- an unusual departure from the typically rigorous schedules of past papal trips.
The pontiff was to sojourn on Strawberry Island in Lake Simcoe, about 70 miles north of Toronto, residing at a retreat and vacation center operated by the Basilian religious order.
Organizers said there would be no media access to the secluded spot, which has a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. The island is laced with hiking paths that meander through 40 acres of woods and meadows, but the frail and hobbled pope has not gone hiking in years.
The pope, who suffers from arthritis of the knee and a nervous system disorder believed to be Parkinson's disease, has slowed down considerably since the last World Youth Day celebration in Rome in 2000. Aides roll him on a wheeled platform through crowds, he has cut back on his appearances and he takes a reduced role in many liturgical events.
But for two years, the pope has made it clear that he would not give up the chance to celebrate World Youth Day with the international gathering in Toronto. The pope instituted World Youth Day as an annual event in 1985; the international meeting is held every two or three years, and this is the eighth time the pope has traveled outside the Vatican to preside over it.
The Toronto encounter will be much smaller than last time, when 2 million young people traveled to Rome. One factor was the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which prompted new restrictions on global travel, higher air fares and apprehension among parents over their children's travel. Some 3,000 youths were denied visas by Canadian authorities.
The largest non-Canadian contingent was represented by more than 52,000 youths from the United States, who arrived in more than 2,000 organized groups.
In addition to the papal events, the week's activities featured an opening Mass, catechetical sessions by bishops in various Toronto churches, the possibility of personal confession, and a Way of the Cross through downtown Toronto.
The pope was scheduled to leave Canada July 29 for Guatemala, where on July 30 he was to declare as a saint Blessed Pedro de San Jose Betancur, a 17th-century missionary known as the "St. Francis of the Americas" for his work with the poor and sick.
In Mexico July 31, the pope was scheduled to canonize Blessed Juan Diego, the indigenous man who saw the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531. On Aug. 1, the pope was to beatify two lay missionaries martyred in 1700.
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Contributing to this story was Carol Zimmermann in Toronto.
This was amazing to watch (it was on FOXNews.)
Another touching scene was a young girl, aged 8-10? (hard to tell) who greeted the Pope. He then reached out and pulled her face toward him and kissed her on the cheek. As she walked away from the platform she was crying. Then got hugged by her mother -- even I had tears in my eyes.
World Youth Day bump.
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