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Pope leaves Canada following World Youth Day success

The Pope said goodbye to Toronto yesterday on the tarmac of an airport crowded with well-wishers. But at least some of his 206,000 World Youth Day pilgrims have decided to delay their departures, with 23 young Cubans are now declaring their desire to defect to Canada, the Cuban Catholic Bishops announced at a conference.

Earlier in the morning, a guard of honour met the Holy Father's helicopter as it landed at Toronto International Airport. His rolling podium passed through lines of wellwishers. It was again on his own strength that the ailing Pope navigated the steps to his white jet. His hunched-over profile could be seen through one of the jet's windows and some in the cheering crowded cried when they saw it.

The 82-year-old Pope now travels on to Guatemala for the first of two stops in Latin America. Before his departure, he performed one last rite on Monday, officiating over a private mass for the retired priests who hosted him.

Sunday's World Youth Day mass had attracted a congregation of 800,000 to the muddy fields of Downsview Lands in north Toronto. That event capped a week of World Youth Day celebrations and saw the Pope break his silence on the child abuse scandals plaguing the American Catholic church.

"The harm done by some priests and religious to the young and vulnerable fills us all with a deep sense of sadness and shame," the Pope said in the homily he delivered at the three-hour mass.

Toronto organisers are calling their event a success given that the Pope was largely feared too ill to travel.

"From the smiles on the Pope's face Sunday, I got the impression that the whole event, the young people, all pleased him immensely," Paul Kilbertus, WYD communications director, said yesterday.

"The event is a success from what we saw through the week with the young people praying, especially at Sunday's mass."

WYD's balance sheet may not be as rosy, however.

"The best case scenario is that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops will break even," said Mr. Kilbertus. "But the church isn't in this to make money." Those numbers along with official attendance data will be released as early as Friday.

Pope travels on despite frailty (International Herald Tribune)
World Youth Day

Globe and Mail (Toronto)

30 Jul 2002