Pope Reads, Prays and Tours Strawberry Island

Tight Security Accompanies Him

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TORONTO, JULY 24, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II took a boat tour of the island where’s he vacationing before participating in World Youth Day.

Strawberry Island, about 81 kilometers (50 miles) north of Toronto, is owned by the Basilian Fathers and used for retreats and conventions. The Holy Father read and prayed during the day, still recovering from jet lag after his nine-hour flight.

The boat tour ended about 1 p.m., when the Pope was seen being helped off the 10-meter, three-deck cabin cruiser and onto a waiting golf cart. He was then taken back along winding paths to the retreat house.

These days spent on Lake Simcoe are the only days of vacation the Pope will have this year. Preparations for his trip to Canada, Guatemala and Mexico kept him from his traditional holidays in the Italian Alps.

John Paul II will leave Strawberry Island for a few hours Thursday, and go to Toronto by helicopter for an initial meeting at Exhibition Place with young people attending World Youth Day.

The Holy Father’s most important meetings with youth will take place during the Saturday night Vigil and on Sunday morning.

Security around the Holy Father is tight. When he flew by helicopter to Strawberry Island, he was escorted by three military helicopters.

About two-dozen police boats from the provincial police force and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been keeping private boats away from the retreat, the Toronto Star reported. The Canadian Coast Guard has deployed buoys around the 18-hectare (45-acre) island and there’s a 500-meter no-go zone patrolled by police marine units, the newspaper said.

Police are also keeping an eye on the island from a command post set up in McRae Point Provincial Park.

The Pope’s entourage during his stay on the island is small. It includes his personal physician Renato Buzzonetti, and Sister Tobiana, a Polish nun who has looked after the Holy Father for years in the Vatican.

Bishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Holy Father’s personal secretary, said that everything is in order to guarantee the Pontiff’s tranquility.

On Friday, the Pope will have lunch on Strawberry Island with 10 youths (two from each continent), to learn firsthand about their expectations and initial experiences during this WYD.

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