TORONTO, JULY 23, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II, upon arriving in Toronto, expressed his hope that World Youth Day will be a rediscovery of the essential values of happiness.
“Too many lives begin and end without joy, without hope. That is one of the principal reasons for the World Youth Day,” the Pope said today, before heading off to Lake Simcoe for a pre-WYD rest.
“Young people are coming together to commit themselves, in the strength of their faith in Jesus Christ, to the great cause of peace and human solidarity,” he said.
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien welcomed the Holy Father at Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport. On Monday, Chrétien had cast doubt on whether he would show up for the welcome ceremony.
In his address, Chrétien, accompanied by his wife, Aline, acknowledged that forgiveness is the key to ending today’s violence. He cited the example of John Paul II who forgave his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca.
Also present to welcome the Pope was Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman, a promoter and organizer of WYD.
John Paul II thanked the Canadian authorities for their cooperation in WYD, saying: “Thank you, Toronto; thank you, Canada, for welcoming them with open arms!”
The Holy Father read his address in English and French with a clear though at times shaky voice. Despite the long journey, he seemed in better form than in the past weeks. He walked down the airplane steps, assisted by aides.
The Pope paid tribute to Canada’s legacy, at whose heart is “the spiritual and transcendental vision of life based on Christian revelation, which gave impetus to your development as a free, democratic and caring society, recognized throughout the world as a champion of human rights and human dignity.”
“I pray that the World Youth Day will offer all Canadians an opportunity to remember the values that are essential to good living and to human happiness,” the Holy Father said.
“May the motto of the World Youth Day echo throughout the land, reminding all Christians to be ‘salt of the earth and light of the world,'” the Pope concluded, referring to the motto of the world meeting of youth.
After greeting those present, including children and the sick, John Paul II took the microphone and, improvising in French, expressed the hope that WYD will be a great success.
After the ceremony, the Pope went by helicopter to Strawberry Island, the property of the Basilian Fathers, located on Lake Simcoe, where he will rest until Saturday. He will leave the island Thursday afternoon to participate in a meeting with youth at Toronto’s Exhibition Place.
The 17-hectare (42-acre) island is used for retreats and camping. John Paul II will stay in one of its small houses.
WYD begins officially today with the afternoon Mass celebrated at Exhibition Place by Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, archbishop of Toronto. Young people from more than 170 countries are participating in the event, which ends Sunday.