World Youth Day 2002 in Canada: Comment by the President of the Catholic WYD 2002 Council

Sunday, August 20 2000

Today, in Rome, Pope John Paul II announced that the 17th World Youth Day will be held in Toronto the summer of 2002. We in the Catholic Church in Canada are extremely pleased and grateful that our country has been chosen by His Holiness to host what has become one of the largest and most popular celebrations of faith in the world.

As at the previous World Youth Day in Paris in 1997, and the one just concluded in Rome, Toronto can expect 500,000 young adults aged 18 to 35 from 150 countries. The concluding papal Masses at the most recent World Youth Days have drawn hundreds of thousands of people.

World Youth Day (WYD) is a Catholic event and the Catholic youth of the world have certainly taken “ownership” of it. Nevertheless, World Youth Day speaks to all youth with the essential message the Holy Father has communicated so well to them: “we believe in you,” “we love you,” “we need you.” This message, the organizers of WYD 2002 believe, is for all people without exception. All are made in the image and likeness of God and all are called to be brothers and sisters, as children of the one Father. Thus WYD 2002 will, God willing, speak to the heart of all, young and old, as was done so effectively in 1997 in Paris and now in Rome. It will give our young brothers and sisters a chance to tell the world the goodness that is theirs and show how they are the hope for our world’s future.

A theme for WYD 2002 will probably be “commitment” and what this means to human friendship, love, family, peace, justice, the environment and, above all, faith and trust in God.

The 2002 event is expected to extend over a period of eight to 10 days and involve all regions of Canada. Youth from around the world will arrive in cities across our country, be welcomed by the Catholic youth of that city or region and stay with them for three or four days, sharing their culture, ideals, hopes, dreams, prayers and, especially, the meaning and importance of knowing and loving Jesus.

The Canadian organizers are very much aware that, more than a Canadian or a Toronto event, this is an event that belongs to the youth of the world. We do hope, however, that WYD 17 will have a distinctive Canadian flavour and spirit, and will also reflect Pope John Paul’s wish that the Catholic Church of Canada, the United States, Central and South America show its basic solidarity as the Church of America.

After a few days in various cities and regions in Canada the youth will converge on Toronto for four days with each other, with the Holy Father and the bishops of the world. The first three of these days in Toronto will be filled with prayer and reflection, celebrations of faith and culture, and an unstructured intermingling with each other. The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) grounds will become a global village of youth, much like what occurred in Denver in 1993.

During this time, and even in the preceding months, one aspect of the gathering, namely its focus on love of neighbour, will take the form of youth working together to help those in need. These social projects will be an opportunity for all youth of different beliefs to work together for the common good and to share their ideals.

As an interesting sidelight, in both Denver and Paris police had great concerns about what might happen with such large numbers of youth coming together. In fact the crime rate dropped. All of their fears were allayed.

The World Youth Day culminates with a spectacular and moving outdoor evening Vigil on Saturday, July 27, followed by the large papal Mass for all, on Sunday July 28. The site of the former Downsview Air Force Base is the most likely location for the Vigil and the Mass, both of which will be open to the public.

Since World Youth Day 2002 is a Catholic Church event, it is under the direction of the Pontifical Council for the Laity headed by its President, James Francis Cardinal Stafford in Rome. The host Archdiocese, Toronto, is headed by His Eminence Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic. All the Catholic Church throughout Canada will be involved in World Youth Day. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), and its President, Most Reverend Gerald Wiesner, OMI, have established a Council to oversee WYD 2002, and I am President of the Council. Reporting to the Council will be the chief executive officer of WYD 2002, Father Thomas Rosica, CSB.

Of course, this event would not take place at all if it were not for the enthusiastic backing of youth. From now until the closing events, there will be hundreds of young Catholics, “both volunteers and on staff ,” deeply involved in all aspects of planning, organizing and facilitating all the celebrations. As one can imagine, this is an enormous undertaking for all concerned. It is on a par in size and scope with the Olympics.

Because it is a Church event, the Catholic Church in Canada undertakes the ultimate financial responsibility, and this will be considerable. Since it is an international event of such prestige and importance, and because it will contribute significantly to the economy of Canada, Ontario and the City of Toronto, government help from all three levels is expected and has been promised. The main source of financing the effort will come from the package containing registration materials, meals and transportation passes that will be sold to each of the expected 500,000 registered participants.

Corporate sponsorship is also expected to be a major source of funding along with the free will offering of Canadians who wish to express concretely their solidarity with youth, “their belief in them, their love for them, and their need for them.”

An awesome and exciting task lies before us over the next two years as we prepare for July 2002. May God bless all of us in and through this endeavor.

Most Reverend Anthony G. Meagher
Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto and
President of the Catholic World Youth Day 2002 Council