The pope flew to Denver expressly for a giant World Youth Day (WYD)
rally. While he took time to celebrate Mass with the bishops, to
visit Denver's Catholics, the Vietnamese diaspora and the children
of Mount St. Vincent Home, he spent his biggest chunks of time with
WYD�s instant community. Those assembled showered John Paul II with
a love expressed in hugs, tears, cheers and applause.
The pope addressed his vast WYD congregation every day of their
joint visit. On Thursday, August 12, 1993, his first day in Denver,
a full house of 90,000 welcomed the pope at Mile High Stadium, a
welcome also marked by a late evening rainbow. On Friday, he spoke
briefly by remote hookup to conclude the Stations of the Cross.
On both Saturday and Sunday, he spent nearly four hours with youth
at Cherry Creek State Park. On Saturday, crowds sat through a chill,
misted lightly by rain. On Sunday, they sat through the heat, some
wilting from its rigors.
In all weather, at every meeting, the pope spoke of life. "I
came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly"
(John 10:10b) was the WYD theme and the papal text. At Mile High,
he said, "Jesus has called each one of you to Denver for a
purpose! You must live these days in such a way that, when the time
comes to return home, each one of you will have a clearer idea of
what Christ expects of you."
�John Paul II, We Love You�
At Mile High Stadium and at Celebration Plaza in downtown Denver,
where the welcome ceremonies were transmitted on an immense screen,
the youth cheered and applauded numerous times during the papal
address, which was lengthened by repetition in many languages. At
the plaza, viewers applauded the dot-pattern papal image as vigorously
as if he were present, rising in unison when the papal helicopter
came into view onscreen. They waved white handkerchiefs of approval
every time they heard the word life.
The pope exhorted them to make a sacrifice of some food on Friday
and to contribute the savings to St. Joseph's Hospital for AIDS
patients in Kitovu, Uganda. At the Way of the Cross, he urged them
to silence and reflection and to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
At the vigil, the pope gave several reflections, urging his listeners
to grapple with the meaning of this life which they applauded so
vigorously. "Ask why," he urged them. "Why
am I here? Why am I alive at all? What must I do?...To fail to ask
these basic questions is to miss the great adventure of the search
for the truth about life."
But to speak only of the papal texts and even of his occasional
departures from them is to miss the greater message. As Franco Bessone,
18, of Mondovi, Italy, said, "The importance of the pope is
his person�.He is the world's saint!"
The pope may have been tired, but he seemed to gather energy from
the youthful crowd. At the evening vigil, the Mexican delegation
interrupted his remarks more than once with a chanted �Juan Pablo
Segundo, le quiere el mundo.� He bantered, "We are in America
now. We must speak English.'' Hardly skipping a beat, they chanted,
"John Paul II, we love you." After making the pastoral
point that we must all love Christ, he concluded the lighthearted
exchange, 'This is certain, 'John Paul II, he loves you.��
Can a High like Denver Last?
The word is that 186,000 young peopletogether with many
of their bishops, pastors and youth ministersclaimed the streets
of Denver one August week for Christ and the Church. This multitude
took public joy in their faith, gaining energy and enthusiasm for
spreading the gospel. They experienced that gospel in a multitude
of languages and cultural expressions, in for the count as members
of the Body of Christ. The next chapter in their lives as Church
will be written as these members search for that same sense of identity
and joy in their parishes back home.