Pope launches World Youth Day festivities

Posted: Friday, July 26, 2002

TORONTO -- Pope John Paul II urged young Catholic pilgrims Thursday to reject the ''lure of sin'' and told them that the Sept. 11 attacks showed the ''tragic face of human malice.''

The frail, 82-year-old pope spoke to tens of thousands of flag-waving young people gathered at a lakeside fairgrounds at the opening of the church's 17th World Youth Day festivities.

Despite concerns about whether he could withstand the 11-day trip that proceeds next week to Guatemala and Mexico, the pope spoke in a clear, strong voice and walked to his seat on stage, aided by a cane in his right hand and an aide holding his left arm.

John Paul described himself as the ''aged pope, full of years but still young at heart,'' bringing them Christ's message to resist those who propose a ''joy that comes with the superficial and fleeting pleasure of the senses'' and based on money, success and power.

He did not mention the clergy sex abuse scandal rocking his church that has been blamed in part for attendance below expectations, with just over 200,000 people aged 16-to-35 registered to take part.

The pope did refer to the Sept. 11 attacks against the United States, saying, ''Last year we saw with dramatic clarity the tragic face of human malice. We saw what happens when hatred, sin and death take command.''

To believe in Christ, he said, ''means rejecting the lure of sin no matter how attractive it may be.''

Wearing sneakers and backpacks and waving their national flags, the more than 200,000 young pilgrims jumped in place to shout their welcome or ran along the route of John Paul's ''popemobile'' as it moved through the Exhibition Place fairgrounds on the Lake Ontario waterfront.

Marisa Solano-Sanchez, 17, of Brownstown, Mich., burst into tears as the pope went by, saying: ''I'm just stunned. I'm just really excited.''

''It's great to see all these Catholics here in one area,'' said Eugene Sohn, 19, from Los Angeles. ''When everybody comes together, regardless of language, sex, or race, we show our strength in numbers.''

Jamie Oakland of Seattle, perched in a lawn chair in front of the stage, came out nine hours earlier for a good spot. ''The guy is my hero,'' Oakland explained.

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