TORONTO, JULY 26, 2002 (Zenit.org).- In his first address at World Youth Day, John Paul II presented the word of Jesus as hope for a world marked by violence and injustice.
“The aged Pope, full of years but still young at heart,” is how he described himself Thursday to 200,000 young people from 169 countries.
“Never forget: Christ needs you to carry out his plan of salvation! Christ needs your youth and your generous enthusiasm to make his proclamation of joy resound in the new millennium,” he said.
“JP II, we love you!” shouted his listeners gathered in Exhibition Place on the shores of Lake Ontario.
The Pope, who seemed rejuvenated, went up to the platform on his own, with the aid of a walking stick.
Improvising in Spanish — “El Papa os quiere” (“The Pope loves you”) — he began his address in English and French with a particularly clear voice, wringing constant applause and cries from an enthusiastic audience.
While the Pontiff moved to the dais, two young people from each country, dressed in characteristic costumes and carrying their flags, filed past on the platform.
The “Spirit Movers,” a group of the L’Arche community, interpreted “On That Holy Mountain,” while handicapped people, accompanied by their helpers, danced and waved handkerchiefs, while a visibly moved Pope looked on.
Following greetings by Bishop Jacques Berthelet, president of the Canadian episcopal conference, the Holy Father said: “I have been eagerly looking forward to this meeting.”
Then testimonies were heard as well as songs of youths from various countries. These were followed by John Paul II’s address.
“People are made for happiness,” he said. “Rightly, then, you thirst for happiness. Christ has the answer to this desire of yours. But he asks you to trust him. True joy is a victory, something which cannot be obtained without a long and difficult struggle. Christ holds the secret of this victory.”
A procession of young people appeared, carrying the World Youth Day cross on their shoulders. This is the cross that has been on pilgrimage in the world since 1984. It toured Canada and even went to the World Trade Center site in New York.
The Pope’s words recalled Sept. 11. “Last year we saw with dramatic clarity the tragic face of human malice,” he said. “We saw what happens when hatred, sin and death take command.”
“But today Jesus’ voice resounds in the midst of our gathering,” the Pope exclaimed. “His is a voice of life, of hope, of forgiveness; a voice of justice and of peace. Let us listen to this voice!”
After the meeting John Paul II returned to Strawberry Island on Lake Simcoe, north of Toronto where he is spending a few days of rest. He will return to the city for a vigil with the young people on Saturday.