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Pope tells huge crowd to support Church

Pope John Paul, ending World Youth Day celebrations, on Sunday urged a drenched but ecstatic crowd of 800,000 to stand by their church and not be discouraged by the priestly sex scandal that has rocked their faith.

Many in the crowd in Toronto's Downsview Park had slept all night waiting for the outdoor Mass, using plastic sheets, cardboard boxes and flags to shield them from a dawn downpour that continued for much of the morning before the sun broke through near midday.

Undaunted by the puddles and the chills, the young pilgrims woke up to attend the culmination of the pope's week-long stay in Canada. He leaves for Guatemala today.

"I don't care if I'm wet. It was worth it, including the money I spent to get here and the 30-hour bus ride from home," said Cecilia Rziha, 17, of Tampa, Kansas, squatting in mud in the first row of the outdoor mass.

In his homily, the pope addressed the priestly sex scandal that has rocked various Catholic Churches around the world, mostly in the United States.

"Do not be discouraged by the sins and failings of some of her (the church's) members," he said, in what was believed to be his first public comment on the subject since the scandal began in the United States in January.

"The harm done by some priests and religious to the young and vulnerable fills us all with a deep sense of sadness and shame. But think of the vast majority of dedicated and generous priests and religious whose only wish is to serve and do good," he said.

"Although I have lived through much darkness, under harsh totalitarian regimes, I have seen enough evidence to be unshakably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the hearts of the young. Do not let that hope die."

Young pilgrims were not the only ones getting wet in the morning downpour. Dozens of cardinals and bishops who were due to celebrate the final mass with the pope had to lift their cassocks with one hand to negotiate puddles while holding an umbrella with the other. The dark blue suits of Canada's politicians were drenched despite the best efforts of their aides to keep their bosses dry.

For pilgrims from 170 countries it was a continuation of the night before, when the pope held a prayer vigil on the same site and addressed more than half a million people.

The remarkable thing so far about the trip -- which will also take the pope to Guatemala and Mexico -- has been the pope's health, which has seen an apparent rebound.

Only last May during a trip to Azerbaijan and Bulgaria, Vatican aides were openly questioning whether he would be able to make all of this trip.

But so far on his 97th foreign trip, the pope has read his speeches in a relatively strong voice, appeared more alert than usual and has changed his program often to interact with the crowds.

World Youth Day
Pope Announces Next World Youth Day (AP)
Pope Says Priest Sex Abuse Sad, Shameful (Reuters)
Pope Laments Sexual Abuse By Priests (AP)
Big, Wet Crowd Gathers for Pope Mass (Reuters)
Pope Celebrates Mass in Toronto (AP)
Build civilisation of love, pope tells youths (Baltimore Sun)
Half-million gather for pontiff's vigil (LA Times)
Church and new breed of teen embrace at Toronto gathering (Baltimore Sun)
Pope's Mission Renewed at Youth Day (AP)
Law affirms church doctrine to youths (Boston Globe)
Young Catholics Pray With the Pope (AP)
Pope thrills at youth festival (AFP)
Pope urges young people to resist terror and hatred (Baltimore Sun)
Pilgrims Get Glimpse of Pope in Canada (AP)
Pope Urges Pilgrims to Reject Sin (AP)
Pope urges 800,000 to stay strong in faith, despite clergy sex abuse (CNS)
Pope wants "civilisation of love" (Reuters)
Fourteen international young people nervous, excited about lunching with Pope (CP)
Officials tabulate World Youth Day's multimillion- dollar shortfall (CP)


29 Jul 2002