Youth Day Occurring at a Key Moment in Canada

Secretary of Bishops’ Conference Gives an Overview

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OTTAWA, JULY 19, 2002 (ZENIT.orgAvvenire).- World Youth Day is arriving at a decisive moment for the Church in Canada.

«There are strong areas and others that must be profoundly renewed,» explained Monsignor Peter Schonenbach, secretary of the Canadian bishops’ conference.

«What is happening in Toronto and Vancouver is very interesting, the result of Catholic immigrants who infuse new energies,» he said. «An Ottawa newspaper recently conducted a survey in which it asked, among other things: What values do you think identify Canada? The majority responded Christian values.»

And the points of greatest weakness?

«The situation of Quebec is a separate case, more traditionalist, due in part to its history of reaction to the French Revolution and Jansenism,» the monsignor observed. «It was a very ‘contained’ Church, and secularization has given it a strong shake-up.»

Regarding the nation’s social situation, Monsignor Schonenbach believes that «the country is doing well. However, along with the luxuriant nature [and] the tourists, there is also the Canada of the poor and the desperate.»

«The Catholic Church incessantly reminds the government about the social problems, which will also be addressed during three WYD afternoons in Toronto,» he emphasized.

The bishops’ conference secretary acknowledged that the prelates had expected a greater number of participants for World Youth Day, both from Canada and abroad. So far, 200,000 have registered for the event.

«The greatest obstacle for Canadian youth is summer work, very widespread,» the monsignor explained. «This is why we have asked companies to give young people a few days off.»

«Sept. 11, however, has upset the plans of U.S. bishops, who spoke about 200,000 pilgrims. Instead, for the time being, there are about 50,000,» he added.

«Others have been detained by Juan Diego’s canonization in Mexico,» he said. «In any event, we are sure that many young people will arrive for the vigil with the Pope.» The vigil begins Saturday, July 27.

Some newspapers have criticized the Pope for staying at his post and undertaking this trip despite his precarious health.

«Perhaps he no longer is the ‘manager’ of the Vatican, but his charism continues intact,» Monsignor Schonenbach said. «Here, among us, he will be able to rest. And he is coming for them, for the young people. He is really interested in them as persons. And they respond.»

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