World Youth Day 2002: A New Wind Blows Through the Church in Canada

Monday, July 29 2002

(Toronto – CCCB)- “There hasn’t been such a vibrant experience of faith in Canada as World Youth Day since the visit of Pope John Pope II to Canada in 1984,” said Bishop Jacques Berthelet, C.S.V., President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB). “From the welcome of tens of thousands of young pilgrims in dioceses across Canada right up to the departure of the Pope, a multitude of emotions has forever marked the hundreds of thousands of young people from across Canada and around the world who attended World Youth Day.”

Bishop Berthelet, of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, described the event as a huge success calling it “An experience of Faith! An experience of Joy!” These are the two elements that coloured all the huge gatherings of World Youth Day 2002, the catecheses led by bishops, the encounter of thousands of young people with Christ through the sacrament of reconciliation, in the Eucharist, the Way of the Cross, in Saturday evening’s prayer vigil. Hundreds of these images will remain imprinted on our hearts, such as the 800,000 people gathered in the wind and rain, singing and praying, guided by the Successor of Peter, with a courageous smile and comforting words despite the limiting ailments of his body.

“Like millions of people, I rejoice in the visit of the Holy Father to Canada. ‘This old Pope’ as he called himself, is a pope of symbolic gestures who surprised us on his arrival by walking down the stairs of the aircraft, step by step, until he touched Canadian soil by hitting it with his cane to tell us: I have come, just as I promised! This Pope has been a catalyst for young people to speak about their faith, to begin a dialogue, to find a way of hope in a world of doubt, fear, suspicion and tears.”

Bishop Berthelet was particularly touched by the witnessing of young people and believes that this event will benefit the Church in Canada. “Wherever World Youth Day has been held in the past,” he said, “it has brought new life to the Church and we are convinced that the young pilgrims, in whose hearts this wind now blows, will return to their home dioceses and parishes ready to share the joy and peace they experienced at World Youth Day. Their energy, enthusiasm and faith will certainly be an inspiration for our parishes, dioceses and Church. World Youth Day allowed us to witness their love for the gospel and their desire to fully take their place in the Church.

“The determination and vision of Pope John Paul II in coming to Toronto to meet the young people of the world is an inspiration to the entire Church in Canada to always ‘be young at heart’ as the pontiff reminded us in his remarks to young people. The Bishops of Canada now invite Catholics in every diocese from coast to coast to coast to join them in taking to heart the Pope’s message in his welcome at the Mass at Downsview when he said: “You, young people, are the vitality and strength of the Church throughout the world. Young people are not just the future of the Church, they are very present in the Church of today.”

“The faithful of Canada must now welcome these young pilgrims home with open hearts, open minds and open spirits,” said Bishop Berthelet. “We look forward to their new fervour, their enthusiasm and dreams as we build the Church of Jesus Christ in responding to the Pope’s challenge of the new millennium in ‘setting out in the deep.’

“Invite them to share their World Youth Day experience. Listen to them. Love them. Allow the winds of youth to blow through our communities and our hearts. Let us all be ‘salt of the earth and light of the world.'”

Bishop Berthelet also thanked the thousands of people involved in making World Youth Day happen. “This event was made possible due to the extraordinary collaboration of governments, the Archdiocese of Toronto and its shepherd, the Bishops of Canada, the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the national WYD office, the various police forces, the media and thousands of volunteers in every part of Canada.”

“After this event,” Bishop Berthelet concluded, ” we will see the building of a reinvigorated and younger Church. The Pope isn’t telling us ‘Farewell, he is telling each one of us that Christ is waiting to meet us.”