TORONTO, JULY 30, 2002 (Zenit.org).- There are three images of World Youth Day that Father Federico Lombardi will not forget: the Pope’s strength, the young people’s strength and the power of the cross.
“First of all, John Paul II’s strength — in recent months, there were those who doubted his participation; yet, once again the Pope has surpassed expectations,” said Father Lombardi, program director of Vatican Radio.
“Not only did he come to Toronto, but he surprised everyone with the vigor of his presence, the clarity and expressiveness of his words, with his stresses, pauses, comments, gestures and smiles,” the priest said.
“Young people understood the Pope’s desire to meet with them, and to give them the testimony of faith and hope,” he added. “And once again they have recompensed his efforts with an enthusiastic response.”
Indeed, the strength of the hundreds of thousands of young people present in Toronto (at least 600,000 at the last Mass, not counting adults), is the second image engraved in Father Lombardi’s memory.
“At the end of an extremely exhausting week, during which they walked over every inch of the immense city of Toronto, they went on pilgrimage for many kilometers to the park where the vigil was held,” the priest continued. “That night, out in the open, they had to endure the storm, rain and wind, but they were there, at the Mass with the Pope, hundreds of thousands, standing, on the wet grass.”
“This testimony also gives hope,” Father Lombardi said. “These ‘sentinels of the morning’ — as the Pope calls them — drenched by the rain, showed in their own way that they are able to pay a dear price for their faith. They will also pay for it in more difficult and decisive circumstances.”
Lastly, Father Lombardi recalled the “power of the cross” at Toronto.
“The WYD cross, two simple, nailed, wooden boards, were the protagonists of the preparation,” he said. “It was taken on pilgrimage to all the diocese of Canada, to the wildest places of nature and the most dramatic of human experience: the ice of the north, to prisons and hospitals. Everywhere it awakened a Christian conscience.”
“But it was on Friday night in Toronto when the cross cast its humble challenge in the heart of the great city seduced by possession, power and pleasure,” the priest said. “The word of the cross is so true in its message of struggle between death and life, between hatred and death, that it is able to pass through the secularized city without fear of being contradicted.”
He continued: “The enormous skyscrapers, silent and cold, seemed speechless before the human and divine drama taking place at their base,” –that is, the Stations of the Cross.
“This city, like many others, needs to find a soul again,” he added. “Now it knows where to seek it.”
“Certainty in the future of the Church and its service to the world is not born so much from John Paul II’s extraordinary spiritual energy or the generous enthusiasm of young people, but from the inexhaustible power of the cross of Christ, dead and resurrected,” Father Lombardi stressed.
“For this reason, the Pope’s last gesture at the end of the Day was to give each one of the young people a small wooden cross,” he said. “Gazing at it intently, the Pope said: ‘you will be the light of the world.'”
“Now the young people of Toronto and all those who joined them in this adventure can take up the way again, knowing where to go. And ‘arrivederci,’ in Cologne 2005,” Father Lombardi concluded.