VATICAN CITY, APR. 8, 2001 (Zenit.org).- At a Palm Sunday Mass that combined a World Youth Day, John Paul II bid farewell to the thousands of young people gathered in St. Peter´s Square by saying: “Until we meet in Toronto!”
The youths were among the 60,000 pilgrims on hand for the Mass marking Jesus´ entry into Jerusalem and the start of Holy Week. This year´s World Youth Day was marked at the diocesan level.
The Mass was also the moment when Italian youths gave the World Youth Day Cross to their Canadian contemporaries, who came to Rome to receive the cross. The last international youth-day was in Rome, last August; the next will be in Toronto from July 22-28, 2002. Preliminary events across Canada will begin July 18, 2002. The cross will go on a promotional tour in Canada.
Last August´s World Youth Day drew more than 2 million young people to Rome. The Canadian organizers were expecting 500,000 for next year´s event. However, requests for accommodation already number 350,000, not including Canadians.
John Paul II wants to be in Toronto for the event, and he said so this morning when he greeted the Canadians in St. Peter´s Square. Among them were representatives of the Indian communities of northern Canada, dressed in their traditional attire. A young Indian couple did bird imitations, a greeting that accompanies the start of the yearly period of light in Canada.
The pilgrims gather in the square held olive branches in their hands, recalling Jesus´ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, only days before his crucifixion on Good Friday.
The Pope, dressed in blood-red vestments, blessed the branches at the start of the procession. He followed in a white jeep. During the Mass, the Gregorian chanting of three voices recalled Jesus´ last moments, as narrated in the Gospel.
John Paul II listened intently to the narrative. During the homily, he invited youth once again to follow Jesus, the only “way to reach the triumphal palm branch on the day of resurrection.”
“Jesus did not live his own earthly life seeking power, as a career toward success, as a will to control others,” the Holy Father said.
“On the contrary,” he added, “he gave up his privileges of equality with God, and took on the condition of a slave, becoming like men. He obeyed the Father´s plan all the way to death on the cross. Thus he left his disciples and the Church a precious teaching: ´Unless the grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.´”
<br> At the end of the celebration the Holy Father addressed the Canadians present in English: “I greet the young Canadians present, led by the archbishop of Toronto, Cardinal [Aloysius Matthew] Ambrozic, and to them I entrust the cross.
“I encourage you to prepare well for the next important appointment of World Youth Day, which has as its theme ´You are the salt of the earth … you are the light of the world.´ Dear young people, get ready to welcome the young people of the world to your beautiful country by renewing your own fidelity to Christ the Lord. Fidelity to Christ, this is my invitation to all the English-speaking pilgrims. Until we meet in Toronto!”