VATICAN CITY, JUL 23, 2002 (VIS) - John Paul II arrived at Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Canada, at 1 p.m. local time (7 p.m. Rome time), officially beginning his 97th apostolic trip outside of Italy and his third visit to Canada, following previous trips in 1984 and 1987.

After listening to Prime Minister Jean Chretien's words of welcome, the Pope thanked those present "for welcoming the idea of holding the World Youth Day in Canada and for all that has been done to make it a reality."

"Young people from all parts of the world," he said, "are gathering for the World Youth Day. With their gifts of intelligence and heart they represent the future of the world. But they also bear the marks of a humanity that too often does not know peace or justice. Too many lives begin and end without joy, without hope. That is one of the principal reasons for the World Youth Day. Young people are coming together to commit themselves, in the strength of their faith in Jesus Christ, to the great causes of peace and human solidarity."

The Holy Father emphasized that Canadians are "heirs to an extraordinarily rich humanism, enriched even more by the blend of many different cultural elements. But the core of your heritage is the spiritual and transcendent vision of life based on Christian revelation which gave vital impetus to your development as a free, democratic and caring society, recognized throughout the world as a champion of human rights and human dignity."

"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. I pray that the World Youth Day will offer all Canadians an opportunity to remember the values that are essential to good living and to human happiness." 

When the welcome ceremony concluded, the Pope went by helicopter to Strawberry Island, located 95 kilometers from Toronto, where he will remain until Thursday afternoon.