August 27, 2000
volume 11, no. 152

NEWS for Sunday, August 27, 2000
"These Youth Have Surprised Us"


    The Cardinal's astonishment was yet to be fully assimilated: "Two million people? We really didn't expect it," but his thoughts were already running ahead to Toronto: "The road has already started," the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Cardinal James Francis Stafford, said.

    American Cardinal Stafford was the person ultimately responsible for the organization of World Youth Day, a task for which he prepared as Archbishop of Denver during the 1993 World Youth Day. He was eager to give his impressions of the event, and began with the confessions in the Circus Maximus, "an important fact on which the entire Church must reflect."

    The Cardinal thanked the Church in Italy and Rome for the labor undertaken to insure the success of World Youth Day: "It wasn't an easy challenge."

-- World Youth Day has just ended. What can you tell us about it?

-- Cardinal Stafford: I think the first thing that should be stressed is that this was a great tribute to the Pope, who has a really great charisma, as the youths' welcome reflected. What was most impressive were the confessions in the Circus Maximus, because this sacrament is a second baptism, and this rediscovery means a recovery of baptismal innocence: it is very important for the Church, for the whole Church, beginning with the bishopos, to see that these youths ask to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

-- What were the youths like who came to Rome?

-- Cardinal Stafford: It is the generation of Vatican Council II, but as was made very clear during the International Forum, their questions are very different from those of youths of the 60s and 70s. I think that today their attention is focused especially on the meaning of Christ's cross, that pilgrim cross the Pope entrusted to them 16 years ago. What does it mean? Why have a pilgrimage? Why did the Pope entrust it to us in '84? These were the questions, and I think this is an important fact, which must be stressed.

-- Two million arrived to look for the answers. Did you expect it?

-- Cardinal Stafford: Frankly, no. It was a great surprise for me and, I think, for everyone. Our initial expectations hovered around 500,000 people. In time they increased, but we certainly did not expect that they could reach two million. I think that in this respect we must acknowledge and be grateful for the great work of the Italian Church and the Church of Rome. Yesterday afternoon I watched a television service on the meeting with the Pope in Tor Vergata, and was able to appreciate again something really beautiful, very well organized, from the logistics to all the rest. Obviously, this gratitude must extend to the whole of Italy, especially the city of Rome, because it wasn't an easy challenge, with two million people arriving at the same time, which had never happened before. Yes, it was very difficult.

-- In brief, did it all turn out well?

-- Cardinal Stafford: Yes, very well. We must give great merit for this Day to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar of Rome, and his collaborators and to the Italian and Roman governments.

-- How is the Toronto event being prepared?

Cardinal Stafford: Last Sunday, Canada's ambassador to the Vatican had a reception, which was attended by Canadian bishops, members of Ontario's and Toronto's government, and others. Obviously, there was much talk about the next World Youth Day, and I think all are very much in favor of this event. I think it will be a very important event not just for the Church but for the whole of Canada, a land in which three great cultures meet: English, French, and native. ZE00082202

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