SCANDALS, LOW ATTENDANCE, MEDIA CYNICISM WON'T DAMPEN
YOUTH DAY PILGRIMS' SPIRITS
TORONTO, (CWNews.com) - When the city of Toronto awoke on Wednesday, hundreds of groups
of World Youth Day pilgrims had already gathered around the city's Exhibition Place and in the
various parishes of the city for catechetical sessions. Nearly 150 bishops, archbishops, and cardinals
were prepared to teach them in their respective languages.
Before beginning his catechesis in French on the topic of World Youth Day-- "You are the salt of the
earth, you are the light of the world"-- Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, archbishop of Montreal, greeted
each country represented in the room, causing a cascade of applause and cries of joy for each one.
French, Swiss, Belgian, Corsican, Quebecois, and African French-speaking youth were among the
nearly 4,000 young people gathered under an immense hangar next to Exhibition Place. With a signal
of the cardinal's hand, silence fell and meditation replaced excitement.
"Our world is not worse than what one wishes to say it is," began the prelate. He invited the young
people "to have a positive outlook." "By seeing what good there is around you, you will be able to be
witnesses of the love of Christ and to take part in the building of a still better world," he declared,
warning them against a lack of joy in life.
After the talk, Pascal, a young man from the Ivory Coast living in Ottawa who came to WYD with
three immigrant French-speaking African friends, said they came to Toronto to see the Pope. "We
came to support him," he said, adding that it is regrettable that the media "has concentrated too much
during this visit on the pedophilia scandals which shake the Church or on the problems of immigrant
visas refused by the Canadian government."
Meanwhile, in the midst of a block of skyscrapers, a group of Italians sang in a small Victorian church,
as they waited for their bishop. "We expect approximately 1,000 young people in this church,"
explained Alain, one of the leaders for this group. Each afternoon this week, until the vigil presided
over by Pope John Paul on Saturday night, about fifty young people will come together here for
adoration prayer led in various languages.
Close to Exhibition Place, Jean Vanier, founder of the community of L'Arche, spoke with firmness to
the many young people who had come to listen to him. Speaking to the handicapped pilgrims present,
he told them: "Each one of you is invaluable!" The more than 3,000 people applauded enthusiastically.
"These World Youth Days are a source of hope for you, the young people," declared Bishop Wilton
Gregory, president of the US bishops' conference, in Queen Elizabeth Hall. "And you also, you cause
hope for the Church," he added, inviting them "to help the Church, by your behavior and your attitudes,
to grow and to bear fruit yourselves."
At 1 pm, the groups dispersed to lunch, some at the edge of Lake Ontario, others listening to a
Canadian singer at Exhibition Place during an impromptu rock concert. In the afternoon, in various
points of the city, were scheduled activities of the "Festival of Youth," which includes, for the first time
this year, charity projects. "It is a way of sensitizing the young people to a solidarity with the poorest,"
explained Father Thomas Rosica, national director of World Youth Day.
Meanwhile, Pope John Paul rested but did not forget the young people in Toronto, according to the
papal spokesman. Joaquin Navarro-Valls told reporters on Wednesday that the Holy Father "benefits
well from his restful stay" on Strawberry Island, north of Toronto. The Pope had arrived there the day
before, for two and a half days of rest, following the nine-hour flight from Rome and the six-hour time
On Wednesday morning, the Holy Father took a tour of the island in a golf cart, accompanied by his
personal secretary, Bishop Stanislaw Dziwisz; the organizer of papal trips, Msgr. Renato
Boccardo; and his personal doctor, Renato Buzzonetti. The Pope then boarded a motor boat, and took a tour of
Lake Simcoe, during which he encountered a flotilla of small boats filled by a score of handicapped
children staying in a house at the edge of the lake. Stopping his boat, John Paul spent ten minutes
chatting with them.
The Pope is not scheduled to receive any visitors during his stay on the island. In addition to his closest
advisers, there are ten people from St. Basil's community, owners of the retreat, on the island to deal
with maintenance of the house and grounds.
Only one meeting is scheduled to take place on Friday, when the Holy Father lunches with 14 young
people from around the world-- three from Canada, as well as representatives of Jordan, Germany,
India, the United States, Sudan, China, Kenya, Australia, Bosnia, Haiti, and Peru. In addition, on
Thursday, he will travel by helicopter to Toronto for a reception ceremony with the young people
"whom he does not forget and of whom he does not cease thinking."