Pastoral Program: 17th World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, Canada

Wednesday, May 29 2002

The Pastoral Context

World Youth Day is Happening at a Particular Time in History

The 17th World Youth Day will be the first international gathering of young Catholics in the 21st century. At the beginning of this new century and new millennium, we are invited by Pope John Paul II to set out into the deep (Novo Millennio Ineunte #1), “to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm, and to look forward to the future with confidence…” At the same time, the current world situation becomes the background and stage for this universal gathering of young Catholics who come together to profess their faith in Jesus Christ, who is truly the light which no darkness can overcome, the hope that has triumphed over despair, the love that has conquered all hatred, and the life that is victorious over death.

Canadian Catholics are filled with new hope and energy because of World Youth Day. A national vision of youth ministry is emerging in this vast country and is clearly one of the first fruits of World Youth Day coming to Canada. Young people across the country are striving to follow the Holy Father’s words: “May the 17th World Youth Day be an auspicious occasion for deepening your faith and your life with Christ” (Homily of the Holy Father for Palm Sunday 2001). By gathering in Toronto for World Youth Day, young people will show the world that they are working to build up God’s kingdom and to bring about a world of love and justice, freedom and peace.

World Youth Day is Happening in a Particular Place

World Youth Day 2002 will take place in a young country, on the threshold of celebrating its 400th anniversary of being the first European permanent settlement in North America. Canada is surrounded by three oceans: the Atlantic to the east, the Pacific to the west, and the Arctic in the north. People from every continent have landed on the shores of Canada and have built a
multicultural society. The people of Canada will continue their long tradition of hospitality in 2002 when they welcome thousands of pilgrims to the shores of Lake Ontario in Toronto for the 17th World Youth Day.

The name Toronto is first identified on a 1670 map of southern Ontario. On this map, a lake was called Taranteau. The same word in Ouentaronk, the Huron language, means “a meeting place where two wooden poles were crossed in the water.” These wooden poles were used to hang nets for fishing. According to etymologists, the word Toronto means meeting place. During World Youth Day the city will live up to its name. In 2002, many important meetings will occur in this city: there will be a meeting of faith and culture, a meeting of the Pope and youth, and a meeting of the Canadian Church and the universal church.

The City of Toronto, which will host the 17th World Youth Day, is said to be the most multicultural city in the world. The Pope spoke about the challenge of Toronto hosting World Youth Day during his Angelus address Aug. 19, 2001: “I am already thinking of the next world meeting, which will be held in July 2002. It will be another milestone on that winding pilgrimage which began in 1985 and which, from time to time, calls a growing number of participants to gather around the Cross in various places on the five continents. This time we will meet in Toronto, a modern metropolis of Canada in North America, where inhabitants of different origins, cultures and religions live side by side. In this composite and complex reality, the need for Christians to be the ‘salt of the earth’ and the ‘light of the world’ is immediately perceived.” It is “at the heart of a multi-cultural and multi-faith city” (Message of the Holy Father to the Youth of the World on the Occasion of the XVII World Youth Day) that participants will have the opportunity to experience the universal Church, which transcends all nations of race and culture.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a great number of people from the East immigrated to the Western prairies of Canada. They brought with them their religion and culture, which enriched the country and the Church. World Youth Day 2002 will also be enriched by the young people of the Eastern Catholic Churches. “May the memory of the time when the Church breathed with ‘both lungs’ spur Christians of East and West to walk together in unity of faith and with respect for legitimate diversity, accepting and sustaining each other as members of the one Body of Christ.” (Novo Millennio Ineunte #48).

World Youth Day is also a way to respond “to the pressing invitation of the Lord who ardently desires ‘that all may be one.’ ” (Message of the Holy Father to the Youth of the World on the Occasion of the XVII World Youth Day) With our brothers and sisters from Toronto and from the entire country of Canada, we will pray together and celebrate our faith in Christ. The presence and participation of Christians from other denominations and believers from other religions will lead us toward the interfaith dialogue that Pope John Paul speaks of in Novo Millennio Ineunte #55.

The Biblical Inspiration of the World Youth Day Program

The Pastoral Program of the 17th World Youth Day takes its inspiration from the theme which Pope John Paul II announced on Palm Sunday 2001: “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world….” (Matthew 5:13-14). These words are taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and form the basis of the Christian life.

“You are the light of the world”

The Biblical and Theological Foundation

The theme of light is rooted in the biblical tradition. “In the fullness of time, the Light came into the world.” (John 1, 15) Jesus revealed himself as the Light by saying: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) In Lumen Gentium (no 1), the Church teaches that Jesus is the “Light of All Nations.”

It is Jesus, himself, who invites young people and all believers to become the light of the world as we prepare to celebrate and experience the 17th World Youth Day. This light is first entrusted to us at our baptism. “In this secularised age, when many of our contemporaries think and act as if God did not exist or are attracted to irrational forms of religion” (Message of the Holy Father to the Youth of the World on the Occasion of the XVII World Youth Day), it is not always easy to reflect this Light. The Light transforms us and allows us to be the “morning watchmen,” as the Pope called young people during World Youth Day 2000. The Light also helps us to become “sons and daughters of the Light and sons and daughters of the day.” (I Thessalonians 5:5).

An appropriate biblical image of the thousands of young pilgrims converging on Toronto for the celebration of World Youth Day 2002 is that of the Magi who are seeking Christ [Matthew 2:1-12]. They were seekers, not satisfied with the world as they knew it. They had the courage to wager their lives and comfort and reputations, following the light of a new star in the heavens that would lead them to Truth and Life. At the centre of this marvelous Gospel story of striking contrasts lies the Messiah who is joy. To those who are alert to the signs of the times and the places, the coming of Jesus is an invitation to risk and to embark on a journey of faith. When we truly encounter Christ and allow ourselves to be touched by Him, we never remain the same. Our lives are illumined with Christ’s presence, take a new direction, and are filled with new meaning.

How then, can we become reflections of the Light for the world? We reflect the light when we make time for a prayer life, when we love our neighbours and when we are faithful to the sacraments. We must always return to Christ for nourishment for “the Church has no other light than Christ’s; according to a favourite image of the Church Fathers, the Church is like the moon, all its light reflected from the sun.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church , no. 748) World Youth Day gives us an opportunity to get closer to Christ so we can better reflect the Light in our world.

“You are the Salt of the Earth”

The biblical phrase chosen for this year’s World Youth Day includes the two complementary images of salt and light and helps to develop the theme of Christian identity received in baptism, first that of vocation (salt) and then that of mission (light). In his message to young people for World Youth Day 2002, Pope John Paul II identifies two functions of salt.

Salt as Seasoning

“One of the main functions of salt is to season food, to give it taste and flavour. This image reminds us that, through baptism, our whole being has been profoundly changed, because it has been ‘seasoned’ with the new life which comes from Christ.” (Message of the Holy Father to the Youth of the World on the Occasion of the XVII World Youth Day). We can witness to the world that love is stronger than hatred, terror and violence.

Throughout history there have been many brilliant models who have been witnesses to the presence of God alive and active in the world. The saints and blesseds who the Church proposes as models of holiness are like salt that seasons: they show the true meaning of our life. As part of the preparation for World Youth Day 2002, Pope John Paul has selected nine young men and women who are truly models for young people today: St. Agnes of Rome, Blessed Andrew of Phú Yên, Blessed Pedro Calungsod, St. Josephine Bakhita, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Blessed Marcel Callo, Blessed Francisco Castelló Aleu, and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the young Iroquois called “the Lily of the Mohawks.” The lives of the first witnesses and martyrs of the faith are also worthy of study, especially St. James, whose feast is celebrated July 25 during the World Youth Day 2002.

Salt as Preservative

“For a long time, salt was used to preserve food. As the salt of the earth, you are called to preserve the faith, which you have received, and to pass it on intact to others. Your generation is being challenged in a special way to keep safe the deposit of faith. Discover your Christian roots, learn about the Church’s history, deepen your knowledge of the spiritual heritage, which has been passed on to you, follow in the footsteps of the witnesses and teachers who have gone before you!” (Message of the Holy Father to the Youth of the World on the Occasion of the XVII World Youth Day)

World Youth Day will deepen our faith in Christ – the faith of our parents and grandparents – which has been passed from generation to generation. With hearts of gratitude we remember our ancestors and especially our grandparents as we celebrate the important feast in Canada of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the parents of Mary, mother of the Lord on July 26.

World Youth Day Helps Us to Reflect Christ…

World Youth Day is an encounter with Christ who is present in the assembled community. Today many young people suffer from isolation and loneliness. At World Youth Day they discover the gift of community, a new friendship that grows from the experience of being together. The gathering of thousands of young people from different cultures and different languages who all share in the same baptism and faith, gives witness to the unity in Christ the Saviour and the Church called to be “the home and the school of communion” (Novo Millenio Inneunte #43). World Youth Day is an encounter with Christ who is present in each and every person. In the Gospel of St. Matthew, Christ identifies himself with others, in particular with those who suffer. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me…. Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25) The social service aspect of World Youth Day will help pilgrims draw closer to those in need, and it will be our response to the invitation of Christ after he washed his disciples’ feet: “For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” [Jn 13:15].

World Youth Day is an encounter with Christ who is present in the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, the source and the peak experience of the Christian life.

The sacrament of reconciliation will also be a privileged encounter with Christ who heals, forgives and liberates us. Following the powerful example of the Confessions at the Circo Massimo at the Jubilee Celebration of Youth in August 2000, young people will be invited to gather at the shores of Lake Ontario, in a very beautiful park and celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation in this biblical setting. They will hear anew the words of the Lord speaking to the crowds from Simon’s boat, as he invited the Apostle to “put out into the deep” for a catch: “Duc in altum” (Luke 5:4). Christ lets us meet him and he brings out the best in us. He will forgive our sins, heal us and send us out on mission.

Steps Toward the XVII World Youth Day

Preparing Canada for World Youth Day 2002

The World Youth Day Cross has been on pilgrimage throughout Canada since April, 2001, when a Canadian delegation of young people from over 32 dioceses and ecclesial groups from all the provinces and territories of the country went to Rome and received the Cross on Palm Sunday. The Cross has been blessing and transforming the country all along the way. How true have been the words of the Holy Father to young people for the 15th World Youth Day: “…the Cross has made a long, uninterrupted pilgrimage across the continents, to demonstrate that the Cross walks with young people and young people walk with the Cross.”

In collaboration with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the World Youth Day 2002 National Office has published Prayers for World Youth Day 2002, a book that helps communities plan masses and prayer services with the Cross. It also contains contemporary reflections on the Cross.

In collaboration with the Office de Catéchèse du Quebec, the World Youth Day 2002 National Office has prepared a guide for spiritual preparation for World Youth Day. The book, entitled Salt and Light, is written especially for young people and includes biblical reflections, testimonies of young people, presentations of Church teachings, Papal statements, and meditations on the Eucharist, Reconciliation, and social justice.

Key Elements of the World Youth Day Program

The “Days in the Dioceses” component of World Youth Day is an occasion to encounter one of the many local Churches of Canada and to learn about the inculturation of the Gospel in a specific area. From one ocean to another to another, the Canadian dioceses are preparing to open their hearts, their parishes and their homes to welcome pilgrims.

The local Church of Toronto will welcome the youth of the world to Exhibition Place at the heart of the city of Toronto at the beginning of World Youth Day. Cardinal Aloysious Ambrozic will proclaim the Gospel in the midst of a modern city. Many of the week’s activities will unfold in the setting of Exhibition Place which lies along the shore of the lake, at the heart of the city.

The catechesis sessions in Toronto will be given in several languages by bishops from around the world. The sessions will be based on the theme of World Youth Day 2002 “You are the salt of the earth, You are the light of the world” as well as on St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians “Be reconciled to God” (II Cor 5:20).

The Youth Festival, which will take place in “the heart of a multicultural and multifaith city,” enables participants to enrich their knowledge of the Church through musical and theatrical performances.

The Way of the Cross will begin in the City Hall Square and proceed along one of the principal thoroughfares of the City: University Avenue, passing before modern structures, hospitals, government buildings, the university and museums. This route recalls the Passion of Our Lord and Saviour as he continues to suffer in his brothers and sisters today.

On Saturday, July 27, at the end of Eucharistic celebrations in the parish churches of the Archdiocese of Toronto, young pilgrims will be sent forward on pilgrimage to meet the Holy Father at the Downsview Lands. Once again all will realize that we are a pilgrim people on a journey toward the Kingdom of God.

The Celebration of the 17th World Youth Day

The Prayer Vigil will be inspired by the theme of World Youth Day: “You are the light of the world.” The vigil’s format will be the evening prayer of the Church with testimonies of young people from throughout the world. When the daylight fades, we need the Light of Christ to shine brightly amidst the darkness of the night.

At Downsview Lands on July 28, 2002, the young people and the Pope will celebrate the One who calls us to be the light and salt of the earth. It is the Pope, the Successor of Peter who presides over this great assembly. Together with the cardinals, bishops, priests and the young people of the world, the Pope will once again confirm the faith of his young friends and encourage them to go forward from this great assembly to be salt of the earth and light of the world. He will pray with them so that their words may season the world with the flavour of the Gospel, and their lives be shining examples of Jesus who is the True Light.