VATICAN CITY, APRIL 13, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II and 40,000 pilgrims watched Canadian youths hand over the World Youth Day cross to their German contemporaries, who are getting ready for WYD 2005 in Cologne.
The symbolic gesture took place in St. Peter’s Square, at the end of the solemn Palm Sunday Mass, on the same day the Church celebrated World Youth Day at the diocesan level.
The Pope explained that the cross will be taken “to various countries of Central and Eastern Europe and then, beginning on Palm Sunday next year, will visit German dioceses until it reaches Cologne.”
Attending the Mass, together with the young Germans and Canadians, were Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, archbishop of Toronto, the site of last July’s World Youth Day, and Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop of Cologne.
The Pope said in German: “I ask you, dear young brothers and sisters: To contemplate the cross; come close to it to be aware of that wonderful love with which the Lord loves us, submit with joy to his work of renewing hearts!”
John Paul II also announced that he would give to the young Germans the icon of Mary “Salus Populi Romani,” which was venerated by some 2 million young people who attended World Youth Day 2000 in Rome.
“From now on, together with the cross, it will be present at the World Youth Days,” he explained. “It will be the sign of Mary’s maternal presence among young people, called like the Apostle John to welcome her in their lives.”
Lastly, the Holy Father mentioned that the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the St. Lawrence Center is being celebrated. He had established the center, a few meters from the Via della Conciliazione, next to the Vatican, to welcome young pilgrims to Rome.
The Pope thanked Cardinal James Stafford, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and “the movements, associations and communities for their attention to this initiative, and for their activity, coordinated by the Emmanuel Community.”