Build civilization of love, pope tells youths

Pontiff addresses 500,000 at evening prayer service

July 28, 2002|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

TORONTO - Calling the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 an "icon of a world in which hostility and hatred seem to prevail," Pope John Paul II challenged the world's youth last night to be "a new generation of builders" who will construct a civilization of love.

Speaking to more than a half-million Catholics participating in World Youth Day, during an evening prayer service featuring multilingual prayers and chanted psalms, the pope repeated a theme that has echoed throughout his two-decade papacy: Reject godless materialism and embrace a life of the spirit.

"Is it right to be content with provisional answers to the ultimate questions, and to abandon life to the impulses of instinct, to short-lived sensations or passing fads?" the pope asked. "The question will not go away: On what foundations, on what certainties should we build our lives and the life of the community to which we belong?"

Reading from a text in English and French, the official languages of the host country, John Paul exhorted the youth to become builders "of the city of God within the city of man."

"The future is in your hearts and in your hands," the pope said. "God is entrusting to you the task, at once difficult and uplifting, of working with him in the building of the civilization of love."

The pontiff flew in from his Strawberry Island retreat, about 60 miles north of Toronto, by helicopter to a former airfield where a sea of humanity waving flags from all corners of the globe had gathered throughout the day.

John Paul waved at the leaping, shouting people along the route of his "popemobile" as it made its way to a huge stage adorned with a 160-foot yellow cross visible for miles. Among those in the crowd was Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

"The enthusiasm and joy that you are showing are a sure sign of your love for the Lord, and of your desire to serve him in the church and in your brothers and sisters," the pope said in his opening greeting, his voice strong and clear despite symptoms of Parkinson's disease and other health problems.

Singing songs and carrying what they needed to spend the night outdoors, crowd members jammed streets in north Toronto to get to the concrete expanse at Downsview Park.

Lisa Hieronymus, 27, of New York City said the huge numbers bolstered the faith of those gathering here as the Roman Catholic Church tries to emerge from the sex-abuse scandals in the United States.

"It's not every day that you get to experience this kind of solidarity," she said. "A lot of people were shaken, and a lot people woke up. This sort of event will help the pope in the long run."

A Mass today in the park will conclude nearly a week of activities marking World Youth Day, an event inaugurated by John Paul in 1985. More than 200,000 young Catholics from 170 nations registered this year, a decline from previous years. Organizers expect up to 1 million people at today's Mass.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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