29-July-2002 -- Catholic World News Brief |

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POPE RALLIES YOUTH AS TORONTO CELEBRATION ENDS

TORONTO, Jul 29, 02 (CWNews.com) -- At the closing Mass of World Youth Day in Toronto on Sunday, Pope John Paul II urged the young participants not to be discouraged or distracted by reports of clerical misbehavior.

At the close of the ceremony, the Holy Father announced that the next World Youth Day celebration will be held in Cologne, Germany, in 2005. He also offered his thanks to the organizers and hosts who made the 17th World Youth Day in Toronto a success.

Approximately 800,000 young people were on hand for the liturgical celebration in Downsview Park, a converted air base outside Toronto. Despite a steady rain, the size of the congregation was more than double what analysts had expected-- and even substantially more than organizers had predicted on Saturday. Thus the 17th celebration of the World Youth Day continued the pattern of drawing more participants than expected.

The Pope concelebrated the final Mass with about 400 bishops and over 1,000 priests. The ceremony was conducted in French, English, and Native Indian languages.

The many young people who had spent Saturday night camping in Downsview Park-- where they had been visited by the Holy Father in the evening-- greeted the Pope with delight when he arrived on Sunday morning, protected by multi-colored umbrellas. Some young people had stayed up, late into the night, talking and singing with their contemporaries from around the world. The rain that began to fall in the early morning hours left many participants tired but enthusiastic as they prepared for the concluding Mass.

In his homily, Pope John Paul warned the youngsters not to be trapped by "the spirit of the world," which "offers many illusions, and many parodies of happiness." Specifically, he warned them: "The greatest deception, and the deepest source of unhappiness, is the illusion of finding life by excluding God, of finding freedom by excluding moral truths and personal responsibility."

In a brief allusion to the sex-abuse scandals that have rocked the Church, particularly in North America, the Pope said: "Do not be discouraged by the sins and failings of some of her members. The harm done by some priests and religious to the young and vulnerable fills us all with a deep sense of sadness and shame. But think of the vast majority of dedicated and generous priests and religious whose only wish is to serve and do good!"

The Pontiff also assured his young listeners that although he is now elderly, he remains young at heart. "You are young, and the Pope is old, and a bit tired," he said. "But he still fully identifies with your hopes and aspirations." Through his years under Nazi and Communist tyrannies, he said, he has seen ample proof that "no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the hearts of the young."

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