VATICAN CITY, JUNE 7, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II returned to Rome elated by his meeting with young people in Bern and pleased with his third trip to Switzerland, said Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls.
The positive atmosphere of the apostolic pilgrimage was evident in the change of tone in the Swiss press during and after the trip.
On Saturday, the day of the Pope’s arrival, the headline of Le Temps lead article was “John Paul II in Switzerland, an Air of Indifference.”
Two days later, the same newspaper began its lead article with the headline: “Magic Has Worked Once Again. Between the Pope and Young People There Is a Lasting Love, Undoubtedly Encouraged by the Elixir of Faith.”
The Swiss press also gave ample coverage to the conclusions drawn from this event by Marc Aellen, spokesman of the country’s Catholic episcopal conference, who described it as an “enormous success, qualitative and quantitative.”
“At the beginning, for the meeting in the BernArena, we did not expect more than 3,000 to 4,000 young people; there were 14,000,” Aellen said. “On Sunday, we didn’t dare to hope for the figure of 40,000 — and 70,000 people attended the Mass.”
“The 41 Catholic personalities who recently called for John Paul II’s resignation in a public letter can ask themselves some questions in the face of the success of this meeting,” he observed.
In fact, Xavier Pfister, promoter of the letter and responsible for the Information Office of the Catholic Church in Basel, acknowledged his surprise to the newspaper NZZ am Sonntag and commented positively on the Pope’s addresses.
Similarly, Le Temps asked today: “Did this visit reconcile Swiss Catholics, often distrustful and reticent in the face of Roman centralism, with their Pope?”
“Seeing the warm atmosphere, full of emotion, that reigned in the Allmend field, one might think so,” the newspaper said. “The attendance was exceptional. On June 17, 1984, in the Pope’s first pastoral visit, ‘only’ 45,000 people attended the closing Mass in Sion.”
Marc Aellen told Vatican Radio of a bishop of French-speaking Switzerland who came to tell him: “Look, do you realize how many young people there are, and all in a spirit of peace!”
“He did not seem the same,” the spokesman said. “I think that it has been an enormous encouragement for the bishops.”
The Pope’s address to the youths was full of slogans in which he marked the future of the Church in the country.
One of these phrases could summarize his message for the future of Swiss Catholics: “Don’t be content to discuss; don’t wait for occasions to do good that perhaps will never come. The hour of action has arrived!”