VATICAN CITY, APRIL 27, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Twenty years ago John Paul II entrusted the Cross of the Holy Year of the Redemption to youth.
Since then, young men and women have carried it on their shoulders, and taken it on planes, trains, trucks and even dog sleighs all over the world.
A commemorative ceremony marking the April 22, 1984, entrustment was held last Thursday at the St. Lawrence International Center, an institution established by John Paul II and entrusted to the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
This center, near the Via della Conciliazione and close to St. Peter’s Square, where the cross is kept between stages, is holding a photographic exhibition of the cross’s pilgrimage.
In 1984, for example, when Czechoslovakia was still under Communism, young people succeeded in taking it clandestinely to Prague, where it was received by Cardinal Frantisek Tomasek.
During the 2000 World Youth Day in Rome, the cross was taken to the Circus Maximus, where thousands of priests were hearing hundreds of thousands of confessions. Before confession, youths prepared in prayer at the foot of the cross, in asphyxiating heat.
In the presence of the Pope, every two or three years during Palm Sunday Mass in Rome, young people of the country that has organized the World Youth Day give it to those organizing the next one.
Last year, young Canadians handed it with it to German youths. This past Palm Sunday, the cross began its pilgrimage in Germany, in preparation for Youth Day 2005 in Cologne.
Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, explained last week: “With this cross, John Paul II reminds us that, in the formation of young people, we must return to the essential, recovering the courage to proclaim Christ in the heart of his mystery, that is, his cross and resurrection.”
“To dare to propose to young people the cross of Christ is the great challenge of today’s pastoral endeavor,” Archbishop Rylko told Vatican Radio.
“The evangelical message cannot be diminished with the illusion of making it more ‘comprehensible’ to younger generations,” he said.
“Young people want to encounter and know the authentic Christ, who for love of man did not hesitate to take up the cross,” he added.