600,000 Young People Gather for Prayer Vigil with Pope

John Paul II Challenges Them to Be Builders of Civilization of Love

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TORONTO, JULY 28, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II entrusted the 600,000 young people gathered at Saturday's prayer vigil with the mission to be builders of a new civilization of love.



"God is entrusting to you the task, at once difficult and uplifting, of working with him in the building of the civilization of love," the Pope told the young people from 173 countries, gathered in Downsview Park, for World Youth Day.

Recalling that this century has begun in the shadow of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, "an image that is a sort of icon of a world in which hostility and hatred seem to prevail," the Pontiff asked his young listeners: "On what foundations must we build the new historical era that is emerging from the great transformations of the 20th century?"

"Is it enough to rely on the technological revolution now taking place, which seems to respond only to criteria of productivity and efficiency, without reference to the individual's spiritual dimension or to any universally shared ethical values?" John Paul II continued.

The Holy Father replied: "Spontaneously in your hearts, in the enthusiasm of your young years, you know the answer, and you are saying it through your presence here this evening: Christ alone is the cornerstone on which it is possible solidly to build one's existence."

"The 20th century often tried to do without that cornerstone, and attempted to build the city of man without reference to him," he added. "It ended by actually building that city against man! Christians know that it is not possible to reject or ignore God without demeaning man."

"Allow me, dear young people, to consign this hope of mine to you," John Paul II said in a confidential tone: "You are the men and women of tomorrow. The future is in your hearts and in your hands. God is entrusting to you the task, at once difficult and uplifting, of working with him in the building of the civilization of love."

The Holy Father appeared in good physical state, and showed his joy when gazing on the ocean of young people listening to him.

When John Paul II arrived at Downsview Park, he was greeted with interminable applause and cries of enthusiasm from his young audience, while the "popemobile" moved through the human corridors to the sound of classical music and undulating flags.

He then went up to the platform, dominated by a 55-meter yellow cross, from which light radiated throughout the area. The Holy Father moved around the platform in a mobile stand, pushed by two men in regional costumes.

Before concluding the ceremony, the Pope gave 12 couples as many small sacks of salt to symbolize their mission to be salt and light of the world, the motto of this World Youth Day.

The young people spent the night in Downsview Park and endured a storm at dawn while waiting for the closing papal Mass.