VATICAN CITY, JULY 16, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Preparing for this World Youth Day is a gigantic challenge, given Canada’s geography and the world’s post-Sept. 11 mood, says a Vatican aide.
Monsignor Renato Bocardo, organizer of papal trips, was a collaborator in the preparation of previous World Youth Days, when he headed the youth section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
He talked with Vatican Radio about the July 23-28 event in Toronto that is expected to draw 300,000 young people.
Q: World Youth Day in Toronto will be a genuine historical record of attendance for an event in Canada, but the number of participants will be much less than in August 2000 in Rome. Why?
Monsignor Bocardo: First of all, because of the distance. Clearly, the greatest number of young participants in a World Day are those who come from the country and the continent offering the hospitality. It is much easier to move in Europe than in any other continent.
Suffice it to think of the geographic dimensions of Canada: To go from one part of the country to another you must take a plane. There are no other means of transportation.
In the second place, the international climate created after the Sept. 11 tragedy must also be considered. People, families, have an understandable fear in allowing their children to take such a trip.
Also to be considered is the sociocultural and ecclesial atmosphere in America, which is different from Europe’s.
In a word, I would say that it is different elements that make it clear why the young participants in Toronto will not be as numerous as those of Rome.
However, I think that the number, although important, must not be the motive for exaggerated attention. Far more important is to focus interest on the quality of the participants, on the reasons that lead them to participate.
<br> Q: What are the underlying reasons that characterize this edition of World Youth Day?
Monsignor Bocardo: Certainly the meeting with the Pope, who continues to have the capacity to attract young people. In the second place — although perhaps it is the first reason — the desire of young people of different regions of the world to hear a strong word, a genuine word which not only motivates the intelligence but also warms the heart.
World Youth Day, although not a magic or immutable formula, transmits a message, the Gospel message, which responds to the expectations of youth today, more disoriented, perhaps, than at other times and in search of reasons to live and to hope.
Q: How is World Youth Day organized?
Monsignor Bocardo: The organizational structure reflects the organizational characteristics of North America. As a result, all possible means have been placed at the service of World Youth Day.
Over 3,800 journalists and radio-television agents have requested accreditation. So, there is great interest in the event. The hope is that they will be able to understand the profound message that the Pope will transmit to young people, and that all young participants expect from these days.
Q: The news that on the eve of the vigil of World Youth Day, the Pope will spend a few days of rest in a very small island on a lake near Toronto, has stirred curiosity.
Monsignor Bocardo: They will be three days of rest and peace. Such a long plane trip and the difference in the time zone affect any person. Therefore, they will be days of absolute rest to enable the Holy Father and those who accompany him to be in full form during the meeting with young people. They are the only three days of vacations that the Pope will take this summer of 2002.
Q: Will there not be any surprises then on the island?
Monsignor Bocardo: Yes, one. On Friday, July 26, he will receive 10 young people on the island and invite them to dine with him: two in representation of each one of the five continents.