.- On the eve of Pope John Paul II’s funeral, 1,200 young people packed Montreal’s cathedral-basilica for a two-hour celebration of remembrance and thanksgiving for the life of their beloved pontiff. The Montreal service Thursday evening was one of thousands of services around the world organized this past week to provide young people an opportunity to remember and pray for the Pope, who had nurtured a special relationship with them, especially through the World Youth Days (WYD) he established 20 years ago.
Led by Bishop Anthony Mancini, the young crowd at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral prayed for the repose of the soul of Pope John Paul. It was a Liturgy of the Word, during which two young people witnessed to the ways in which the late pontiff touched their lives.
Prior to his homily, Bishop Mancini led the young people in the popular chant “JPII, we love you.” He recounted his experience at St. Peter’s Square on Easter Sunday. Pilgrims had gathered and had chanted the same words, adding, “We want to see you.” As a result, said the bishop, Pope John Paul appeared at his window and blessed the crowd.
The bishop spoke of the Holy Father’s many positive qualities, focusing on the paternity of the Pope.
“He called young people [and all people] to overcome their superficial, adolescent desires, and he invited us to become adult children and to do something important with our lives,” said the vicar-general of the archdiocese.
The Pope urged youth and all of the faithful to go out, meet others and transform the world, he said.
“He took the time to teach us what it means to be a man in a world where that isn’t obvious,” said the bishop.
“John Paul II challenged us to grow up and become adults, to not be afraid of what that means and to go beyond our self-centered selves.”
He said while he was in Rome during Holy Week Vatican Radio asked him why he thought young people are interested in the 84-year-old pontiff.
“Because John Paul II witnessed to the truth by his way of acting and speaking and he accepted the challenge of being an adult,” he told them. “For many young people he is the only adult they have known in a world where the first desire is to always appear young.”
The young adults were surprised when a zucchetto that belonged to Pope John Paul II was set before the altar. It was placed on a red pillow and processed down the aisle, surrounded by four young people carrying incense. It was announced that the zucchetto had been given to Bishop Mancini.
Young people were attracted to Pope John Paul because he loved and understood them, and he challenged them to be the “people of the beatitudes,” said Emilie Lemay during her witness. The recent university graduate was one of almost 20 young people who carried the WYD Cross almost 600 km from Montreal to Toronto for WYD 2002. She met the John Paul at WYD that year.
Pope John Paul “knew how to speak to us, to touch our hearts. He taught us to proclaim Jesus Christ and not to be afraid to do it in the context of ordinary life,” said Sr. Isabel Correa, FMA. The recently professed Salesian sister attributed her decision to embrace religious life to the encouraging words of the Pope at WYD 2000 in Rome.
During the liturgy, the youth sang the theme song of WYD 2000 in Rome and WYD 2002 in Toronto, the last such gathering attended by Pope John Paul. They clapped and waved Polish and WYD flags. The young people held candles as they prayed the Litany of the Saints and other prayers for the late Pope.
Excerpts were read from his messages to youth, and a slide presentation of the Pope’s life was screened throughout the service. At the end of the liturgy, the young people sang along to a video montage of short visual and musical clips of international WYD gatherings.