Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 5, 2002
Pilgrims keep holy vigil
Joyful youth suffer fatigue, heat to hear holy father's entreaty
By RENATO GANDIA
"The aspiration that humanity nurtures, amid countless injustices and sufferings, is the hope of a new civilization marked by freedom and peace."
- Pope John Paul
"Only Christ - known, contemplated and loved - is the faithful friend who never lets us down, who becomes our travelling companion, and whose words warm our hearts," he said. In approval, the throngs chanted, "JP II, we love you!" a phrase that reverberated in Toronto for close to a week.
The vespers, which lasted more than three hours, featured testimonies from youth all over the world.
Prayers interspersed the testimonies and the heavens were besieged with the entreaty, "Lord, hear our voice!" petitioning the Lord to grant peace, hope, renewal and alleviation of the world's sufferings.
Before the pope left the field, he told 600,000 pilgrims with a smile, "Sleep well." And the pilgrims laughed and cheered more, not minding the refugee-like conditions at the park.
Priests continued to hear Confessions in the dark and the youth continued singing praise songs, sharing stories and encouraging each other to hold on to their faith.
Lloydminster's Nicole Bootsman, 16, could not believe she had made it on the stage that night.
"I was so close to the pope, about 10 metres. I could see him very clearly. It was just an incredible feeling I will never forget as long as I live," she told the WCR as she was resting just about midnight. "It certainly strengthened my faith and awakened me to claim my role in the Church."
Earlier in the day, Archbishop Thomas Collins and the pilgrims from Edmonton Archdiocese celebrated Mass at Our Lady of Victory Church just before the walk.
"World Youth Day is an extraordinary experience that brings us the awareness of our God," Collins told his flock. "It is centred on the Lord Jesus Christ, not on the pope. This is the message of our holy father, who always urges us to proclaim our Christianity by serving our Lord through our neighbours."
But the whole of our life is not WYD, the archbishop reminded the pilgrims."Now is the time of rejoicing, but in a day or two, it is the time to focus. To be reconciled to our Lord is one important part of WYD, so that we become real disciples of Jesus Christ."
Collins assured the pilgrims, "We have the love, prayer and presence of the universal Church. It's the presence of the grace of God we need to maintain the fullness of faith."
And on that note, Edmonton pilgrims trekked to meet the pope for the climax of the stunning event that transformed Toronto into a surprised neighbourhood that welcomed this influx of youthful Catholic believers.
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