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Pope John Paul II Delivers Homily in Toronto

Aired July 28, 2002 - 10:21   ET


THOMAS ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Pope John Paul II is celebrating an outdoor mass with as many as one million followers. This morning's service marks the finale of the world youth activities in Toronto, and CNN's Frank Buckley joins us there now live with more. And Frank, has the weather gotten any better, or is the wind and the rain still coming on as hard as ever?

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we still have a bit of both, but the weather is slightly better. Blue skies starting to appear, thankfully. We are now awaiting, as the mass continues, the homily from the holy father. John Allen, once again from the "National Catholic Reporter," tell us what we're about to experience here and the significance.

JOHN ALLEN, "NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER": Well, the homily, in the life -- in the liturgical moment that we're in is supposed to be an exposition of the gospel reading. So the pope will be talking about this gospel, which, of course, it contains the theme of World Youth Day, which is that Christians are the salt of the earth, the light of the world.

In addition, we have been given indications that the pope today, in today's homily, is going to address in a very direct way the sex abuse scandals that have been sort of hanging over the Catholic Church in North America for the last several month. And so obviously, there's a sort of climate of anticipation surrounding that as well.

BUCKLEY: And we should say that it will be delivered in both English and French, so it will go back and forth. We should receive a simultaneous translation when he's speaking in French. Right now, about to begin. So we will listen in to Pope John Paul II as he begins.

POPE JOHN PAUL II (through translator): On the hillside, near the lake of Galilee, Jesus disciple listened to his gentle and urgent voice. As gentle as the landscape of Galilee itself, and as urgent as a call to choose between life and death, between -- to choose between truth and falsehood.

The Lord spoke words of life that would echo forever in the hearts of his followers. Today, he is speaking the same words to you. He is speaking to the young people of Toronto and the young people of Ontario and of the whole country of Canada, of the United States, of the Caribbean, of Spanish-speaking America, and Portuguese-speaking America, of Europe, of Africa, of Asia and Oceania.

Listen to the voice of Jesus in the depths of your hearts. His words tell you, you who are Christians, they tell you what you must do to remain in his love.

But Jesus offers one thing, and the spirit of the world offers another. In today's reading, from the letter of the efissions (ph), St. Paul tell us that Jesus leads us from darkness into light. Perhaps the great apostle is thinking of the light that blinded him. The persecutor of Christians on his road to Damascus.

When later he recovered his sight, nothing was as before. He, said Paul, had been born anew, and nothing would ever take his new- found joy away from him, which had filled his soul.

Dear young people, you, too, are called to be transformed. Awake, you, you who are asleep. Arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light, St. Paul teaches us again.

The spirit of the world offers many false illusions and many parodies of happiness. There is, perhaps, no darkness deeper than the darkness that enters young people's souls when false profit prophets extinguish in them the light of faith and hope and love. The greatest deception and the deepest source of unhappiness is the illusion of finding life through the exclusion of God, of finding -- of finding freedom by excluding moral truths and personal responsibility.

Lord is calling you to choose between these very two voices which compete for your souls. That decision today is the very substance and the very challenge of World Youth Day. Why have you come together here, from all parts of the world? To say, in your hearts together, Lord, Lord, to whom shall we go? You, you, have the words of eternal life.

Yes, Jesus, the intimate friend of every young person, he does have the words of life and of eternal life. The world that you are inheriting is a world which is in desperate need -- a need of a new meaning, a new meaning of brotherhood and of human solidarity. It is a world which needs to be touched and healed by the beauty and the richness of God's love. Today's world, our world, needs witnesses to that very love. You are the ones the world needs. The world needs you. He needs you to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The world needs you.

The world needs you. The world needs -- that is exactly what the world needs, you, as the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Salt -- the purpose of salt is used to preserve and keep. Your task is to preserve and keep alive the memorial of his saving death and glorious resurrection. You must keep alive the memory of the words of life, which (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the marvelous works of mercy. Marvelous works of mercy and goodness, which he performed. You must constantly remind the world of the power of the gospel to save.

We have the sun.


Wind and sand and rain.

Let's continue with the salt. Salt seasons and improves the flavor of food. Following Jesus, you have to change and improve the taste of human history. With your faith, hope and love, with your intelligence, courage and perseverance, you have to humanize the world we live in. The way to reach was showed by the Prophet Isaiah in the first reading of today. Free the chains of injustice, break your bread with the hungry. When you can put out of you malignance, your light will shine in the darkness.

(speaking English): Even a tiny frame lifts the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of night. How much more light will you make all together, if you bond as one in the communion of the church, if you love Jesus, love the church.

Do not be discouraged by the sins and failings of some of her members. The harm done by some priests and religious to the young and vulnerable fills us all with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) sense of sadness and shame.

But think of the vast majority of dedicated and generous priests and religious...


... whose only wish is to serve and do good.


There are many priests, seminarians and consecrated persons, here today. Be close to them and support them. And in the depths of your hearts, you feel the same, the same code to the priests who are consecrated today. Do not be afraid to follow Christ on the loyal (ph) road of the close.


In difficult moments in the church's life, the pursuit of holiness becomes even more urgent. And holiness is not a question of age, it is a matter of believing in the holy spirit, just as (UNINTELLIGIBLE) here in America, and so many other young people have done.

You are young and the pope is old.


I've had 83 years of life. It's not the same as 22 or 23.


But -- but the pope still fully identifies with your hopes and aspirations.


(through translator): Youth is a question of spirit.

(speaking English): Much darkness in the harsh totalitarian regimes. I have seen enough evidence to be unshakably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the hearts of the young.


You are our hope. The young are our hope. Do not let the hope die. Stake your lives on it. We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father's love for us in the real capacity to become the image of his son, of Jesus.

I finish with a prayer. Oh, Lord Jesus Christ, keep these young people in your love. Let them hear your voice and believe what you say, for you alone have the words of life. Teach them how to profess their faith, bestow their love and impart their hope to others. Make them convincing witnesses to your gospel. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) so much in need of your saving grace. Make them the new people of the beatitudes that they may be salt of the earth and the light of the world at the beginning of the third Christian millennium.


Mary, mother of the church, protect and guide these young men and women in the 21st century. Keep us all close to your maternal heart. Amen.


BUCKLEY: Pope John Paul II completing the homily here before hundreds of thousands of young people in Toronto. The pope, most notably, making reference to the sex abuse crisis in the United States. He said, specifically, John Allen, do not be discouraged by the sins and failings of some of her members, that harm done by some priests and religious to the young and vulnerable fills us all with a deep sense of sadness, and he used the word "shame." Tell us the significance.

ALLEN: Well, think the significance is, this is an unusually strong language. I mean, shame, especially in the Catholic context, has a sort of spiritual resonance, and I think it's a recognition from the pope that this is a spiritual blot on the church. You may remember when he brought the American cardinals to Rome in April, he acknowledged that sex abuse was a crime, but I think we see him take another step today in saying spiritually it is also a matter of shame.

But I think it's important to say that he immediately then said something else. He also said, but think of the vast majority of dedicated generous priests and religious whose only wish is to serve and do good. And you remember, Frank, that when he made that transition, he put an exclamation point on that "but," which brought an enormous roar out of this crowd. And so I think what he wanted to say was this is a source of enormous shame, but let's keep this in context. Let's remember that most of the priests that are out there are good guys doing good work. And certainly, the very faithful young people, you know, drawn from some of the most faithful, dedicated Catholic families here responded to that.

And I think the best comparison there is you've got to -- in this sense, the pope is a bit like a general who knows his troops out there in the field are under fire in North America these days, and he wanted to come to their aid.

BUCKLEY: And we've heard that over and over again during the past year from the faithful, that is that, look, my priest, my bishop, is not involved in this, and it's unfair for everyone to be painted with that same broad brush.

ALLEN: Yeah, I think what happened early on in this story is that some of the really shocking revelations that came out of Boston especially about priests like Geoghan and Shanley and Cardinal Law, and in his own inability to sort of contain that problem, that became the template by which everyone understood. And I think what the pope wanted to say today is not every Catholic priest in the United States is Geoghan and not every Catholic bishop is Cardinal Law, that there are the vast majority of people out there, the vast majority of priests and bishops are good, faithful servants of the gospel.

BUCKLEY: Let's talk about another portion of the homily, in which the holy father said, the pope is old and a bit tired, or at least that's what the prepared text said. We believed that he completed the rest of that sentence; we couldn't quite hear it. But old and a bit tired?

ALLEN: Yeah, this is really the first time in a such a public way the pope has acknowledged not just that he's old -- he often jokes with the young people, you know, "this old pope has come among you young people." But adding that phrase that he's a bit tired, it's the first acknowledgement, even in the sort of tongue-in-cheek way of the burdens that are being imposed upon him by his physical suffering.

But of course, you also know that as soon as the words got out of his mouth, the young people here began chanting "the pope is young, the pope is young." Which brought him back to say, you know what, I'm not the same as a 22 or 23-year-old. And so there was this sort of a joking, you know, repartee between him and the crowd.

BUCKLEY: This is a speech that did address some of the concerns of some people in the church. It's always said that the Vatican does not respond to regional, political pressures, any sort of political pressures. Is a speech like this, a homily like this written by the holy father himself? Is it written by committee? How are these prepared?

ALLEN: Well, you know, there's always input. So the local organizers of the trip would certainly be able to suggest some things; people in the Vatican certainly would be able to suggest some things. But this is the pope, in terms of his public addresses, has always taken them extremely seriously. And most of what's in there, in one way or another, flows from his own hand. Certainly something as delicate, as high-profile, as important as this, you can assume those are John Paul II's words.

I think it's important to note, Frank, this is hardly the first time the pope has addressed this issue. Since these scandals broke in January, he's spoken on the scandals two other times. Once in March with his holy Thursday letter to priests. And again, in April, when he brought the cardinals there.

But you know, this isn't the first cycle of sex abuse scandals in the United States either. I mean, we've seen other waves of this sort of thing. And in fact, the last time the pope spoke on sex abuse in North America was at another World Youth Day. It was 1993 in Denver before a crowd of 18,000 people in McNicols (ph) arena. So the pope in a sense has certainly said this before, but he delivered it with more precision and with more sort of firmness and clarity today than I think we've heard it before.

BUCKLEY: He uses the word shame. How is today's address different than those that he's made on the subject in the past?

ALLEN: Well, I mean, from a certain point of view, he's expressing regret, saying it certainly should not have happened. But keeping it in context -- that's been a consistent message.

But again, I think that word "shame," I think for a pope to acknowledge that something is a source of shame for the church -- and this is a church that, you know, historically has struggled to admit its mistakes. For him to say that this fills us with sadness and shame, that is an extraordinarily profound acknowledgement of the impact this crisis has had.

And it certainly had had in the lives of every one of these young people. I mean, they watch the news, they hear it from their parents and friends. They've been walking through the last four or five months trying to decide if they should be ashamed of being Catholics. And I think what they heard today from the pope is, yeah, there's something to be ashamed about, but let's keep that in context, because most of the people, most of the priests and bishops out there are good folks.

And you know, he said, in fact, there are lots of bishops and priests here today. Be close to them, support them. And you heard the cheering welling up from the crowd. I mean, that message was resonating with these young people.

BUCKLEY: The pope, during his visit here to Toronto, did not meet with the survivors of sex abuse at the hands of some priests. It was never a part of the official agenda. It maybe isn't your role to say, but I'll put you on the spot and say, is this, in some way, a mistake?

ALLEN: Well, you're right, it's not my role to say. What I do think I can say is that there are going to be victims and victims' rights groups out there who are going to find this a good step, but hardly satisfactory. They would have liked to see the pope meet with the victims.

BUCKLEY: OK. We will with that thank John, and toss it back to you.

CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: Great job out there, Frank. Words of encouragement from the pope, soothing the young pilgrims who attended there.




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