Toronto´s Challenge: "What It Means to Be a Christian"

Cardinal Outlines Objectives of July Event

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ROME, FEB. 8, 2002 ( Toronto´s World Youth Day will challenge youth «to understand what it means to be a Christian in the 21st century,» says the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

Cardinal James Francis Stafford spoke today at the Canadian Embassy in the Vatican and told the press about the preparations for WYD, planned for July 18-28. The Council for the Laity is helping to oversee the event.

The half-million young people expected to attend will reflect on «the enormous challenges of this century,» such as bioethics, globalization, freedom, peace and relations between the sexes, he said.

In connection with the latter, the American cardinal explained that it is necessary to overcome «the growing hostility» and «lack of confidence» between the two sexes, which make «life-choices such as marriage» difficult.

From here stems the necessity «to understand reciprocally the identity of the other sex,» beginning with the «awareness of being children of God,» he said.

Cardinal Stafford said the Holy Father chose Toronto as the site of the event because of the multicultural nature of the city, regarded as the urban center where the greatest number of ethnic groups coexist.

«There is no greater challenge for the new century than to understand the real meaning of tolerance,» the cardinal explained.

The impact of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will also be reflected in John Paul II´s words to young people in Toronto.

The theme of WYD — «You Are the Salt of the Earth … You Are the Light of the World» — will be integrated with this year´s Message for the World Day of Peace: «No Peace Without Justice; No Justice Without Forgiveness,» the cardinal said.

Cardinal Stafford was archbishop of Denver when the 1993 WYD was held there. On that occasion, John Paul II met hundreds of thousands of young people, and later confided that he had experienced a «revolution» in Colorado, the cardinal said.

That «revolution» created a before and after in the Church in the United States, the cardinal said. Since then, Americans have seen the Pope with different eyes, he added.

Before Denver, internal tensions hurt the Church; now, those acute tensions have been overcome, Cardinal Stafford contended.

Moreover, the attitude of the press toward the Church has changed. «Journalists were very impressed by youths´ attitude, who looked on the Pope and bishops as teachers,» the cardinal continued.

The newspapers thought that the young people would reject the Pope´s words, which at times were exacting. But the opposite happened. There was a «changing point» in the relations of the Church with the media, Cardinal Stafford concluded.

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