Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
May 7, 2001
Close encounter with the Holy Father
Local delegate reflects on bringing World Youth Day cross to Canada
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
EDMONTON — His body is old and frail, but his spirit is alive and vibrant. I encountered this spirit in the most beautiful smile and sparkling eyes, as I met Pope John Paul at the Vatican in Rome on April 8.
At the Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square, I not only met him, but also received Communion from him and received his blessing on behalf of all Albertans.
Myself and 45 other young adults journeyed to Rome, the first week of April, as Canadian delegates. We all represented select Catholic dioceses from across the country.
As Edmonton was the only diocese from Alberta chosen to send a delegate, I had the privilege and responsibility of representing the entire province. Our role in Rome was to receive the World Youth Day cross from a delegation of young Italians at the Palm Sunday Mass. What an amazing experience!
World Youth Day is celebrated, in the Catholic Church, every year on Palm Sunday. Every second year young adults from around the world gather in a city of the pope's choosing to celebrate. It is an opportunity for young adults, age 18-35, to pilgrimage and share their faith.
Last summer the five-day pilgrimage took place in Rome. Next summer, July 23-28, 2002, Canada will host World Youth Day in Toronto. Hundreds of thousands of young adults from over 150 countries are expected to gather there.
The year before World Youth Day the host country receives the World Youth Day cross. The cross then travels throughout the host country during the year. This cross has had a tremendous impact on all of the nations where it has been present.
This was evident to me during the ceremonies when we received the cross from the Italians. They were extremely emotional, crying tears of sorrow because they did not want to give it up. We, on the other hand, were crying tears of joy because we were receiving a powerful symbol that we know will impact our nation.
In addition to the ceremonies at the Vatican, we participated in several other events during our four days in Rome. We were hosted in parishes where Italian young people shared their culture with us, we met with another group of young people who serve the poor in Rome, and we witnessed Italian rock stars and soccer heroes give testimonies of their faith and speak of the importance of World Youth Day in their lives.
We also participated in a procession of the cross through the streets of Rome. The procession was one of the most moving experiences, as many young people came out of shops and restaurants to see what was going on, and then joined us on our way to St. Peter's Square.
Now the cross is here in Canada. It began its journey in Ottawa April 11, and is expected in Edmonton in mid-November. While in the city, it is hoped it will come to the University of Alberta, as the pope has made a special request for university students to participate in World Youth Day.
It is expected to be seen throughout the city, especially in places where one might not expect to see a cross. Next spring the cross will be walked from Montreal to Toronto, and will arrive in Toronto as pilgrims begin to arrive.
A group of students from St. Joe's College is already planning to journey together to Toronto for World Youth Day 2002. The theme - "You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world," given to us by the pope - reminds us we have many gifts to share with those in our lives and with the Catholic Church. This gives us hope and a desire to go out and share it with others.
Next summer when we meet with the pope again, he will be older and he may be much frailer. I know, though, that his smile will still radiate with the love that he has for all of us.
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