Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 4, 2002
WYD cross taken to 'modern Calvary'
Canadian youth visit former site of World Trade Centre
By TRACY EARLY
Catholic News Service
Canadians preparing for World Youth Day in Toronto this summer brought the event's special cross and their prayers to ground zero in New York Feb. 25.
With special permission secured by New York archdiocesan officials, two busloads of the Canadian visitors and a trailer containing the cross were led by police to the spot where the towers of the World Trade Centre stood until Sept. 11.
The visitors went up the steps to stand on the wooden platform first built as a viewing spot for families of the people killed in the attacks.
As the group softly sang "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom," six Canadian youth carried the World Youth Day cross up to the platform.
Standing before the cross and looking out onto the empty space and hole in the ground where New York's tallest buildings once stood, the visitors joined in a liturgy that began: "Behold the cross of Christ: the place of suffering and death that has become the sign of our reconciliation with the Father."
Joseph Panepinto, director of the Catholic Youth Organization for the New York Archdiocese, said it was difficult to get permission for so many to visit but it came after he stressed to police the importance of the cross.
Simple, made of wood, the four-metre cross was entrusted to the world's youth by Pope John Paul in 1984, and has served as the symbol of World Youth Day since the event began that year.
After the New York visit, the cross was to go to Timmins, Ont. The cross was in the Edmonton Archdiocese Nov. 14-25. A walking pilgrimage April 30-June 9 will take it on its final journey from Montreal to Toronto.
Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, director of this year's World Youth Day, said he secured Vatican permission to bring the cross to the World Trade Centre site, and had talked with the pope about the plans in a meeting two weeks earlier.
Against the background of ground zero's vast emptiness and the noise of the men and machinery still engaged in the cleanup, Rosica said the visitors had come to "a modern Calvary" bringing a "sign of reconciliation."
The youth were witnessing to the world that "there is another way," Rosica said.
While composed primarily of young people from 25 Canadian dioceses and nine countries, the delegation included representatives of the police, fire and emergency services that will assist with World Youth Day.
The visitors had arrived about noon the previous day after a 12-hour bus trip from Toronto, and then attended a Mass and prayer vigil at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
After spending the night at Mount Manresa Jesuit Retreat House on Staten Island, the visitors returned to Manhattan for Mass at Our Saviour Church before going to ground zero.
Archbishop Renato Martino, Vatican nuncio to the United Nations, was celebrant and homilist for the Mass.
"What you will see today when you visit ground zero is the consequence of sin, a crater of dirt and ashes, of human destruction and sorrow, a vestige of sin that is so evil that words could never suffice to explain it," he said.
Buses took the group directly from the church to the World Trade Centre site, where the young people, in French and in English, prayed for "all those throughout the world who endure senseless suffering and death," and particularly "for the people of the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania."
By noon, their purpose fulfilled in a 24-hour offering of prayer, the pilgrims reverently put the cross back in its trailer and boarded their buses to return home.