- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2002

A frail Pope John Paul II today arrives in Toronto for World Youth Day, the start of an 11-day tour that will fly over the United States to Guatemala and Mexico for local saints' canonization ceremonies.
Three saints will be canonized in Guatemala City and Mexico City at the end of the tour, which marks John Paul's 97th foreign journey. All told, he has elevated 462 persons to sainthood since 1978.
The dramatic trip will highlight as at past youth events in Colorado and Italy the vitality of church youth, but it will also showcase the pope's failing health and the shadow of the priest sex-abuse scandal in the American church.
Archbishop Anthony G. Meagher, president of World Youth Day, said the pope's trip shows "the providence of God" after two traumas: the terrorism of September 11 and the "public shame" of the scandal.
Vatican officials say the pope has no plans to cross into U.S. territory 30 miles away to comment on the scandal. "I go to pray with them, be joyful and have together with them an enriching experience of faith," the pope said before his trip.
John Paul, 82, who once bounded from airplanes to kiss the earth, now trembles from Parkinson's and cannot walk unassisted. Often, others must complete the reading of his messages.
Still, he has galvanized Toronto with the largest public event in the city's history despite lower turnout than expected.
"What started off at a slow pace has picked up tremendously in the past two months," the Rev. Peter Fleming of St. Joseph's Church in Toronto said in a telephone interview yesterday. "Young people are very resilient and enthusiastic and good at mingling."
He said this youthful chemistry can anchor the faith and morals of the church in young people for a lifetime and do it with an international flair.
His church, for example, will host 225 young "pilgrims" from France and West Africa for the six days of outdoor music, devotions, prayers and a Mass and vigil with John Paul on Sunday.
But the scandals have undermined some high estimates of the turnout and the terrorism put Canadian authorities on alert for visa problems.
Canada's Department of Citizenship and Immigration has denied visas to 6,000 foreign registrants, even though it has waived the $50 application fee and added staff to cope with the volume of applications.
To avoid an influx of people from poor countries, the visa process required that applicants "show they qualify, that they're a genuine visitor, and not seeking a permanent move," an official said.
In Boston over the weekend, Voice of the Faithful, a U.S. group that formed over the abuse crisis, held a protest rally of 4,000 and said the pope should address the topic on North American soil.
"I don't believe that the scope of the crisis in the United States has been conveyed to the pope, or he would slip over the border and say something about this," spokesman Mike Emerton said yesterday.
A group of Catholics from Quebec who have charged sexual abuse by church leaders said they will show up to demonstrate in Toronto, where the pope once visited briefly in 1984.
According to reports, Vatican officials say a papal schedule is hard to alter and that America should not demand all the attention, since it holds just 60 million of the 1 billion world Catholics.


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