It has been exactly 10 years since Blessed John Paul II led his last World Youth Day in Toronto. The first international gathering in the twenty-first century drew 300,000 young people from countries all over the world, and many of the pilgrims were inspired by the aged pontiff—by his witness and his words:
You are young, and the Pope is old, 82 or 83 years of life is not the same as 22 or 23. But the Pope still fully identifies with your hopes and aspirations. Although I have lived through much darkness, under 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 that 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 and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.
He reminded the young pilgrims of their mission and purpose and encouraged them all to do their part in building the civilization of love.
Blessed John Paul II passed from his earthy life on April 2, 2005. His World Youth Day tradition still lives on, though. The next is set to take place in Rio de Janeiro.
Will you be there?