Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 21, 2003
Canadians give up WYD cross to Germans
Cross traversed country prior to World Youth Day
By CINDY WOODEN
Catholic News Service
Representatives of Canadian young people handed the World Youth Day cross to their German peers with pride, but also sadness.
Before the cross was passed on April 13 at the end of Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square, Pope John Paul told the Canadians that in contemplating the cross during its pilgrimage across their country "you discovered God's love for you."
The pilgrimage, he said, "brought many people to a powerful experience of God's love. May the spirit of Toronto remain always alive in your hearts and bear abundant fruit in your lives."
The cross travelled to cities and towns across Canada in the year prior to World Youth Day in Toronto last July. Tens of thousands of people came out to pray before the cross when it came through Alberta in November 2001.
In Rome, after the Canadians gave the cross to their German peers, the Canadian young people had tears running down their cheeks.
The Canadian delegation met with the pope April 12 and prepared to hand over the cross by keeping it company with their prayers as it sat waiting in the Church of San Lorenzo near St. Peter's Square.
Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, coordinator of World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, had to ask the nuns who run the guesthouse where the Canadians were staying to set aside the house curfew so the delegates could take turns throughout the night sitting with the cross.
The pilgrimage of the cross, a standard part of preparations for World Youth Day, took on an importance in Canada not seen previously as it crossed Canada by air, boat, train, truck and dogsled, Rosica said.
Sebastien Lacroix, 23, coordinated the Canadian cross pilgrimage and came to Rome to help hand it over to the Germans, who are to host World Youth Day in 2005 in Cologne.
Lacroix said he had asked himself "why so many people want to touch the cross and to kiss it."
"It is like a relic," he said. "It's been touched by millions like us, who have put their burdens and sufferings on it."
Lacroix said, "At first I had to push people to take the cross out of the church" and onto the streets, to hospitals, prisons, schools and native communities where young people live and work and suffer.
His advice to the Germans is to keep up the tradition of carrying the cross in pilgrimage to the places young people are and not wait for them to come to a church where the cross is placed.
Celebrating Mass for the Canadian youth April 11, Rosica said the message of the cross is simple. "It's about the body of a broken young man who hung on the cross and was laid in a tomb which could not hold him."
The message of the cross, he said, is that "there is no way to Easter Sunday without Good Friday."
"The message of the cross is not about crowds or numbers, but about the faithful who gather at the foot of the cross in faith and prayer," he said.