Pope in Canada for youth gathering

He tells young Catholics to use faith to aid peace, human solidarity


TORONTO - Starting an 11-day foreign trip that promises to test his strength, Pope John Paul II arrived here yesterday and, in a voice steadier than it has recently been, exhorted young Roman Catholics to do their part in making a better world.

"With their gifts of intelligence and heart, they represent the future," the pope said during brief remarks after his nine-hour flight from Rome. "But they also bear the marks of a humanity that too often does not know peace or justice.

"Too many lives end without joy, without hope," he said, adding that because of that, young men and women needed to "commit themselves, in the strength of their faith in Jesus Christ, to the great cause of peace and human solidarity."

Toronto is the site this year of World Youth Day, a Roman Catholic gathering held every two years that the pope began in the mid 1980s and makes a point of attending.

The pope made no mention of the revelations of sexual abuse of young people by priests in the United States, and Vatican officials did not predict whether he would do so at the scattered events he plans to attend before he leaves Monday for Guatemala and then Mexico.

The officials said the pope was carrying a broader message of hope, and his brief appearance yesterday afternoon was perhaps most striking as a testament to his will and to the physical forces that often frustrate it.

Although the 82-year-old pontiff used a cargo lift to get on and off airplanes during his previous foreign trip - and there was one waiting for him here - he chose yesterday to walk down the steep, long metal staircase to the tarmac, his right hand tightly clutching the rail as he took one methodical step after another.

His head lolled forward and his face was virtually without expression - signs of Parkinson's disease, a degenerative neurological disorder.

When, with the help of two aides, he reached the bottom, he banged his cane repeatedly against the tarmac in what was apparently a gesture of triumph.

He was then wheeled on a moving platform down a royal-red carpet into an airport hangar where he met several hundred people, including Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

"The very fact that your holiness has made the trip here bears witness to your tenacity and your courage," Chretien said.

The young Catholics on hand to hear the pope's 10-minute speech, delivered partly in French and partly in English, expressed a similar feeling in less formal language.

"Wow," said Genna Davidge, 16, of Peace River, Alberta. Davidge said that as she watched the pope struggle to speak to them, she could "feel something radiating from him."

"It's amazing," she said.

Several hundred thousand young Catholics are expected to attend World Youth Day, a weeklong festival during which the pope will spend much of his time in relative solitude at a church retreat on Strawberry Island, about 60 miles north of Toronto. The pope flew there early yesterday afternoon after his remarks.

Tomorrow, he is scheduled to attend a papal welcoming ceremony at Ontario Place in Toronto. He will return to Strawberry Island in the evening and spend much of Friday there.

On Saturday, he will meet again with Chretien and other government officials and then attend the youth day vigil on stage in Toronto.

His schedule has been designed to allow him ample rest, but already the pope is considering a trip to the Philippines early next year. His spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said the pope has been invited and "has not said no."

"He wants to go," Navarro-Valls said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.