TORONTO, JULY 28, 2002 (ZENIT.org).- In moments of difficulty and scandal, the Church has even greater need of holy young people, John Paul II told a crowd of 800,000 at World Youth Day.
With a clear voice, the Pope expressed his happiness in seeing the ocean of humanity that gathered today in Downsview Park for WYD’s concluding Mass.
About 600,000 young people, most of whom did not sleep, spent the night in Downsview Park, Toronto’s old airport. An early-morning storm woke up the few who had managed to sleep. The Mass began amid rain and strong winds.
Despite their exhaustion, the young people gave the Pope the same joyous welcome that characterized Saturday evening’s prayer vigil.
Looking at the sea of young faces before him, John Paul II said in his homily: “Even a tiny flame lifts the heavy lid of night. How much more light will you make, all together, if you bond as one in the communion of the Church! If you love Jesus, love the Church!”
“Do not be discouraged by the sins and failings of some of her members. The harm done by some priests and religious to the young and vulnerable fills us all with a deep sense of sadness and shame,” he added — a reference to scandals in the United States and elsewhere.
“But, think of the vast majority of dedicated and generous priests and religious whose only wish is to serve and do good!” he said. “There are many priests, seminarians and consecrated persons here today; be close to them and support them!”
“And if, in the depths of your hearts, you feel the same call to the priesthood or consecrated life, do not be afraid to follow Christ on the royal road of the Cross! At difficult moments in the Church’s life, the pursuit of holiness becomes even more urgent,” the Pope continued.
“You are young, and the Pope is old and a bit tired,” he added. As if to engage the Holy Father in dialogue, the young people cried out: “The Pope is young; the Pope is young.”
John Paul II interrupted them, saying: “But he still fully identifies with your hopes and aspirations. Although I have lived through much darkness, under harsh totalitarian regimes, I have seen enough evidence to be unshakably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs in the hearts of the young.”
“Do not let that hope die! Stake your lives on it! We are not the sum of our weakness and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son,” John Paul II said, before raising a prayer he composed for the young for the occasion.
By then the sun was beginning to shine. During the event John Paul II spoke spontaneously in French, English and Spanish.
As the Mass got under way, Bella Sarmiento, who was with a group from Los Angeles, said: “We go to Mass every Sunday, but this is the first time we go to Mass in the rain. What an experience!”