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Marking 5 Years Since Youth Day '02

Interview With Father Thomas Rosica

TORONTO, JULY 29, 2007 (Zenit) - World Youth Day 2002 woke up the Church in Canada, said Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, national director of the event held in Toronto five years ago.

Speaking with us to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the 17th World Youth Day, Father Rosica commented about what effects the event brought to Canada and the Church.

Father Rosica is the director of the Toronto-based Salt and Light Media Foundation and Catholic Television Network, which he founded in 2003.

Q: World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto took place five years ago. What do you think has been the most profound effect the event had on the Church in Canada?

Father Rosica: World Youth Day 2002 was a tremendous catalyst allowing many great things to happen in and to Canada.

We may choose to speak of World Youth Day as something in the past -- that brightened the shadows, monotony and fatigue of our lives at one shining moment in history in 2002.

Against a world background of terror and fear, economic collapse and ecclesial scandals, World Youth Day presented an alternative vision of compelling beauty.

World Youth Day 2002 woke up the country and the Church in Canada.

The Catholic Church was alive and young during those glorious days of July 2002, and the Church continues to be alive and young today.

World Youth Day 2002 also shifted the plates of the earth in Canada in the area of media relations. Two sections of the Holy Father's talks remain engraved on my memory.

First, at the arrival ceremony in Toronto for John Paul II at the beginning of World Youth Day 2002, the Holy Father spoke these prophetic words to government officials and the people of Canada at Pearson International Airport on July 23, 2002:

"Canadians are heirs to an extraordinarily rich humanism, enriched even more by the blend of many different cultural elements. ...

"In a world of great social and ethical strains, and confusion about the very purpose of life, Canadians have an incomparable treasure to contribute -- on condition that they preserve what is deep and good and valid in their own heritage."

Then on Saturday evening, July 27, 2002, on the tarmac of a former military air base in Toronto, Downsview Park, John Paul II spoke these thought-provoking words to the crowd of more than 600,000 young people gathered at the great vigil of World Youth Day 2002:

"The question that arises is dramatic: 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?

"Is it right to be content with provisional answers to the ultimate questions, and to abandon life to the impulses of instinct, to short-lived sensations or passing fads?"

And what happened in our country over the past five years? One of the most serious crises of our times is the crisis of marriage and family life.

Canadians have to reflect carefully on the social consequences involved in the redefinition of marriage, examining all that is entailed if society no longer gives a privileged place and fundamental value to the lifelong union of a man and a woman in marriage.

As the keystone of society, the family is the most favorable environment in which to welcome children.

I will never forget the sight of John Paul II descending the stairs of the plane that brought him to Toronto, and ascending the stairs of the plane that would take him to Guatemala at the end of our World Youth Day in Toronto.

John Paul II taught us in the twilight of his pontificate that everyone must suffer, even the Vicar of Christ. Rather than hide his infirmities, as most public figures do, he let the whole world see what he went through.

In a youth-obsessed culture in which people are constantly urged to fight or deny the ravages of time, age, disease, he reminded us that aging and suffering are a natural part of being human.

Where the old and infirm are so easily put in nursing homes and often forgotten, the Pope was a timely and powerful reminder that our parents and grandparents, the sick, the handicapped and the dying have great value.

Our Canadian reality is truly based on a transcendent vision of life based on Christian revelation that has made us a free, democratic and caring society, recognized throughout the world as a champion of human rights and human dignity.

We will only continue to offer this treasure to humanity ...

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